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There are potholes in life and we all encounter them; in some cases -- in some stretches of life -- frequently. You know what a pothole means: A rut, a hole, a defect in the road, a setback. Something that halts or jars us. Something that can inflict damage.

They also can cause us to change our paths -- and that may be the point.

Are we headed on the way to God -- to glory -- or the way of the world?

The way of the world may seem smooth at first but is filled with hidden dangers.

Every time we hit a rut, we need to make sure we haven't diverted from our role -- God's Plan, our mission. There is the glory of this world (power, pleasure, and popularity, self-absorption, pride and gluttony) and there is the authentic radiance and glory of Heaven. Remember that Satan is the "prince of this world" and will entice you; as he does, he blinds you; you won't see what's coming. He is the "shining darkness."

Why do we hit potholes?

Sometimes, mistakes. Often, sin. Also: because God is trying to halt us and make us think, is trying to reorient us, is trying to nudge us onto a different path. We hit potholes when a road has not been maintained or we have been diverted or we have been distracted (from what's most important in life) and were not paying attention.

The farther off course, of course, the more potholes we'll hit (although the devil will grant luxuries along the way!).

Take the time to think back at "ruts" in your life, when they occurred, and what they may have meant. More importantly, look at what they indicated. Large potholes. Small potholes. Medium ones. Everyday problems. Sometimes, illness. Sometimes, a snare.

It's never pleasant to be going along and suddenly feel and hear a tire slamming into something not intended to be there. You didn't see it coming. Or, you couldn't swerve. They are all the worse when we're moving too fast or our eyes are wandering. And when we're moving too fast, we don't stop to think about why they occurred and thus too frequently we head for even larger ones (or return time and again to the same one).

Think on this also: how small potholes in your life may have preceded larger ones. If not potholes, bumps. Sometimes, there is a cliff. For a while, you may not have been able to move on. It may have caused a "tire" to blow out. That might have been God's point: to stop you in your tracks and make you re-evaluate where you were and where you were headed.

Potholes put us on the "threshing floor" to separate the chaff -- the branches and hard stuff -- from the wheat (that we avoid purgatory). God doesn't judge us by our problems but how we respond to them.

It could be a larger bill than we expected. It could be a bill we can't pay. It could be a home sale falling through (that would be a larger one). And it could be something serious like a divorce or loss of a loved one or threatening ailment. Often, small potholes (when not addressed) turn into large ones.

Correct your path, and exercise optimism. You may not be able to see out of a deep hole, but remember: beyond it is the right job, the right house, the right spouse. As a writer, Deborah Lipsky, notes in A Message of Hope, "Resign as the ruler of the universe and turn that position back over to God. Let go of self-criticism, judging others, and trying to control everything in your life and the lives of those around you. Becoming frustrated because things aren't going as you want them to only sets you up for negativity which is a great way that allows for demons to invade your space. You have no control over all the things that happen to you, but you do have total control on how you respond to them. Take all that wasted energy lost on trying to force life to fit into your perception of how it should be, and channel it instead on dealing with what life throws at you."

As a former occultist and now Christian named Greg Griffin adds,

"Many people come to faith in Christ and think some magic wand will be waved over them, and all will be okay. But genuine healing doesn't work that way. When I came out of the occult then truly found Jesus at age forty, I experienced a season of trials, brokenness, crushing, and remolding by God. I went through some of the most painful times I've ever had in my life. But I found this truth along the way: Satan likes to hurt us; he wants to kill, steal, and destroy. But when God breaks us, it is for our own good! God has to get all the dross and evil out of us. The process is not pleasant, to be sure, but He only allows us to go through that kind of difficulty because He knows it will bless us."

[resources: Deborah Lipsky's A Message of Hope; Greg Griffin's essay in Dancing With the Devil; and Father Yozefu-B. Ssemakula's The Healing of Families]

[Footnote: the Optimist's Creed. Promise Yourself To:

1) be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind

2) talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you know and meet

3) make all your friends feel that there is something special in them

4) look at the sunny side of everything and have your optimism come true

5) think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best (outcome)

6) be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own

7) forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future

8) wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile

9) give so much time to the improvement (honest examination/critique) of yourself that you have no time to criticize others

10) be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit presence of trouble (the devil)

[Feedback from Sharon Wagner of Dubois, Indiana: "This is proof positive that God hears every thought! Yesterday at work, we were talking about the fact that it was the general consensus that I live under a rock.  I have been kidded about that for a long time because I don’t pay much attention to the news or current songs, etc.  Well, during that conversation, I said 'God is my rock, so I don’t mind living under there!'….   But I wondered later that day if God was even referred to as a 'rock' in the Bible… I know Peter was, but not sure about God. This morning I got up and went to the living room to say a few prayers before I started my day, and opened up my Grandma’s St. Joseph Daily Missal, which she had bought in 1967.  I just opened it up… that’s it. What was there was to be meant for me today, I thought. It opened up to page 389, which is entitled 'Holy Saturday – The Lessons.'  (It is interesting that today is Saturday.) I started to read on that page the Canticle that Moses wrote, and in it, it says: 'For I will sing the Lord’s renown, Oh, proclaim the greatness of our God! The Rock – how faultless are His deeds how right His ways!'"]

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