Three Ways to Respond When Life Goes a Different Direction

After Ignatius of Loyola had put his life in the service of God, he imagined going to Jerusalem to pray and repent, to make a pilgrimage to the places of the life of Jesus and to do God’s work among the people there. Even today, many Christians feel the attraction to go where Jesus went. We feel that this region of the world is truly sacred ground.

Ignatius made it to Jerusalem after much time and effort. But he didn’t stay long. Jerusalem was not safe then; some pilgrims were killed, others taken as ransom. Ignatius returned to Spain less than a month after his arrival. He had been so sure of this call to Jerusalem that he even sneaked to some of the holy places without the required guard. When the Franciscan superior responsible for Christian pilgrims threatened to excommunicate Ignatius, the pilgrim gave in.

Ignatius’ conversion was the most important turning point in his life. But even after his conversion, life took turns that he had not expected. His disappointment in Jerusalem probably taught him that judgment can have many layers and that perfectly good goals and desires do not always lead to the obvious result.

We’ve seen that too, haven’t we? Our good wishes – even our sense of calling – led us in one direction, but then something happened we hadn’t expected. How can we react when this happens?

Do not regret the good wish and intention.

God created us to wish and to follow our good wishes. A change of direction does not mean that the wish was wrong. Desire gives us the energy to act. Simply recognizing a good wish is an act that leads us to God’s dream for us. In fact, sometimes we see our desires lead to a certain result because that is the only result we can imagine. But maybe God planted in us this desire for a different outcome than what we are currently seeing.

Accept the change of direction.

Ignatius did not want to leave Jerusalem, but when he accepted this result, he acted accordingly. There is no point in continuing to fight the inevitable. The job we thought would be a perfect fit is failing. An adult child makes a choice that we disagree with. The social justice work we have dreamed of keeps being delayed for reasons beyond our control. Can we keep moving in a good direction? Can we resist the temptation to become argumentative and bitter – with humans or with God?

Rely on the creativity of the Holy Spirit.

Our mistake is to believe that life can only go one way or that only one choice is the right one. Yet the Holy Spirit works within us to create new opportunities for growth and good work every day. No circumstance is wasted in God’s economy. And because we live in a world filled with God’s creation and grace, there are several routes to good results. We just can’t see the possibilities from our limited perspective.

Ignatius experienced various changes of direction. In doing so, he followed his God-given wish to help others and to love Jesus more and more. Ignatius was known as a man of great joy and gratitude. He was convinced that God’s love poured out on every circumstance and change. Unsuccessful plans undoubtedly disappointed and frustrated him, but never for long. He trusted that God would lead him to the ultimate goal: God’s glory and love.

Leave a Comment