A recent article from Business Insider (msn.com) offered a remarkable comparison between the reasons businesses fail, and the reason marriages fail.
Reading the article (Marriages and Businesses Fail For The Same 3 Reasons, Says A Silicon Valley Couples Therapist), it immediately becomes apparent that the same insights can be applied to the failure of our personal faith.
So, what does the article tell us as Orthodox Christians, and what practical advice can we draw from it?
Not learning from experience
Just as marriages and businesses make the same mistakes over and over again, so too can we as individuals when trying to put our faith into practice. It is no accident that the Orthodox Church gives us the treasury of Holy Tradition – the accumulated experience of all holy people, over the last twenty centuries. On our own, we might reinterpret the Bible to suit our own mind, or invent “Christian” teachings based on what seems “nice” in our times. When we read and listen to the lives of the saints and the teachings of the Church Fathers, we benefit from first-hand experience, which builds a solid foundation for everyday life. This is a far cry from digesting Christian life on our own, without reference points – essentially living like a Protestant “independent” Christian, relying on “Me and the Bible” – or more accurately, just Me.
Learning from experience means listening to the collective wisdom of the saints and Church Fathers, along with spiritual direction from priests and monastics.
Not adapting to “disruption”
We might seek God’s will, but when unexpected things happen, we assume God is somehow on vacation, and not actually using events for our salvation. Modern, secular life is mostly focused on avoiding disruptions to our pleasure and contentment; a true Christian life recognizes that the Cross of Christ is the tool God uses to bring about our salvation, and that the same is true in everyday life. We can be sure we’ve begun to have a true, Christian mindset, when we look at suffering, illness, and personal challenges as crosses in the fallen world, which God will use to help us conquer our passions, and achieve holiness in our life and character.
Not predicting future problems
One benefit of keeping a daily rule of prayer is to spiritually stabilize us, in preparation for those times life turns out of control. Yet one can only put down deep roots of the Christian life when things are most stable, preparing for difficult future events by setting in place routines right now. The media may tell us not to worry about the future, or just the opposite: that we should invest all our efforts in preparing materially for a meltdown of our civilization. But neither approach is really Christian: since we know that future problems will inevitably come, a wise Christian invests their efforts primarily in putting down the spiritual roots to survive, to spiritually thrive, and to be saved.
And all that takes time, effort, and a firm commitment.