Many, many times, God advances us by forcing us to retreat. The ultimate was when Jesus died on the cross. He had to die in order to conquer death. A few years ago, a large part of Yosemite National Park was consumed in fire. They said (“experts”) that it would take centuries to repair the destruction. It is true that that particular area doesn’t have the great old trees anymore, but the area is now teaming with life. Flowers and plants grow, small wildlife abounds. Eventually it will support larger life. It died, and is now reborn. Sometimes this works in our faith. You have to experience tests in your faith in order to experience growth. You didn’t get through school without passing tests to advance to the next grade. A fine knife or sword does not become such without being heated to remove the impurities.
My marriage experienced just such a test. I was your typical American, my wife a typical Philipina. I was a selfish guy, only interested in her for what she could give me, and it was never enough. I wanted more. I wanted to be online flirting with women across the country (around the world), I wanted to see all the fake boobed women with all the plastic surgery, very much interested in what the world now calls beauty. My wife, a traditional Filipina wife, didn’t care what I was as long as I provided, accepted my considerable shortcomings to make the marriage work. Well, she caught me, and I had to die to that life in order to live a true, sacramental marriage. We’re still working on it. We’ve been through other things since. I think we built our strength during that trial of our life in order that we might have enough strength to work together to take real care of each other when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. This is how God works-we get trials, never more than we can handle, but always enough to stretch our capabilities, in order to succeed in the future. We lose ourselves in order to gain Christ.