A few months ago I found myself having a conversation with a gentleman who had grown up in the same town as I had.

In our conversation we shared memories of teachers whom we had in high school. As we shared these stories it became obvious that the teachers we remembered were the ones who had been the toughest. They demanded our best work and challenged us to learn and grow.

Neither of us were able to say that we appreciated these teachers at the time we were in class but looking back they were a gift in our lives.

God also challenges us to grow in our lives. We may find it easier to remain as we are today but that is not what the Lord wants for us. The call of God is to keep moving forward, trusting that the God who loves us will continue to provide what is needed in our lives. In my own life experience, my mother had Alzheimer’s.

It was not easy to be a part of her journey with the disease. Looking back on that part of my life, I now believe that because of mom’s struggle, I have become a little more understanding of what people feel and experience as they care for others with illnesses or needs.

Often we grow through the difficult situations of our lives. God, however, strengthens us in our weakness and provides what is necessary for us to become more Christ-like in our lives. May our hearts always be open to the gifts of God’s love that sustains us in the joys and sorrows of life.

Father Greg Havel is the pastor at Church of the Crucifixion in La Crescent.