In the Christian tradition, there is a strand of thought known as sacramental theology.
According to this concept, a sacrament is an object or experience that mediates the reality of the sacred. Typically, when people think of the church’s sacraments, they think of the formal sacraments like baptism, communion, or holy matrimony. But a sacrament can also be anything that lifts your consciousness to a higher plane and brings you into contact with the true essence of your being.
The advantage of sacramental theology as a metaphor for life as a whole is that it invites us to treat not only religious relics, but also obstacles and painful experiences as bridges to meaning.
M. Scott Peck wrote, “The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
When troubles come our way, we often obsess over the source from which the troubles came:
Who’s responsible for this? Was it sent by God? Was it sent by the devil? Was it sent by chance?
I suggest we take a hint from sacramental theology and ask a different set of questions:
How can I engage this experience in a way that leads to greater self-knowledge? Whether this experience seems to come to me from God, the devil, or chance, how I can use this hour of difficulty as a window to heaven, as an opportunity to achieve a broader and better understanding of why I’m here and what I’m capable of creating?
Over the course of a lifetime, we’ll all experience many moments that are difficult (or impossible) to explain in terms of a benevolent cosmos. Instead of trying to figure out if your experiences are a blessing or a curse, try to figure out how you can become the kind of person who uses every experience as a basis for bringing greater redemption into the world. Be someone who turns water into wine: take the ordinary and unwanted things of life, extract value from those things even while everyone else is cursing them, and bless the world with your determination to see and share the goodness of every situation.