Counselor's Corner: When life gets difficult


Fred Cavaiani

Every one suffers. No one is immune from pain. Life will not always go the way we wish. I will have struggles. You will have struggles. Life will never be perfect and untroubled.

It is the struggles in life that open us up to look deeper into ourselves and discover what is most important. Pain and suffering become the doorway to discovering ourselves again and realizing the importance of going deeper into ourselves and deeper into God.

The embrace of whatever comes our way becomes a focused attention on the present moment. In this focus on the present moment, something profound happens. All our emotional and spiritual energy can be used to bring our psyche and our soul into a profound experience of what life is all about. It also helps us experience God because in embracing our helplessness and brokenness our emotional life goes deeper and we search for something deeper.

About 20 years ago when I was teaching psychology courses and social diversity courses at Davenport University, I would take my students to the Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan. In those days at the end of the tour, a survivor of the Holocaust would give a presentation. I will never forget the impact one woman survivor had on me. She had been in three concentration camps as a child. She saw her whole family killed by the Nazis in these camps. Yet this woman was filled with love for everyone. She had forgiven everyone. There was a love and peace that radiated from her whole personality. It was like the presence of God filled the room. This was a woman who had embraced her pain totally. She went so deep and had forgiven everyone. I will never forget her because of her courage, honesty and her ability to go on with life in a loving manner. This was a very wise woman who embraced what had happened to her and as a result she had an internal freedom that allowed her to positively influence everyone in her presence.

This experience had a profound impact on my life. It helped me realize more and more that in the embrace of what happens to us we can begin to turn toward God and discover an even deeper meaning in life. It also helps a person to go through life without hanging on to resentments, tension, anger and condemnations. The difficulties of life do not become obstacles to personal and spiritual growth. Difficulties in life become opportunities to discover an internal peace and joy that is not dependent upon how others treat us.

When life gets difficult, the best way to live is to embrace what is before us. It opens us to more depth and courage and wisdom. It allows us to turn for help from a God who is always there to help us and heal us. It changes us to realize that happiness is not dependent upon good times or difficult times. Happiness is dependent upon how I embrace and experience the present moment.

Living in the past is not helpful. Living in the future is useless. But living in this moment is where I can become fully alive in wisdom and love and have a profound experience of God. This holocaust survivor taught me something by her awesome, loving, hurting and joyful presence.

I am always amazed at the strength and inner peace of people who have such burdens to carry. Parents who have a child with severe physical or mental limitations. A spouse who must nurse their husband or wife and take care of them because of a debilitating illness. The loss of a child or spouse or close friend to death. Life is never utopia. But life is always here to push us into a deeper awareness of the purpose of life and a deeper awareness of what is most important: Love, God, compassion and a total embrace of the present moment.

It is never what happens to us that is the problem. It is what we do with what happens to us that becomes the problem if we don’t embrace it, experience it and learn from it. When life gets difficult, the doors begin to open to discovering a deeper meaning in life. It may be very painful but it brings us into a whole new and deeper way of living.

Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is

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