Illness happens to everyone. Sure, it helps to lead a healthy life, but severe physical trials can strike anyone at any time.

People ask me if they are to blame for their poor health. They wonder if they’d still be sick if they possessed a stronger faith or if they’d just learn a specific lesson. My answer: they’d still probably be sick.

Obstacles are an important part of life. They aren’t punishment for your perceived short-comings.

Just because we’re faith-filled and may easily grow from our trials doesn’t mean we’ll always experience calm waters. Carefree, easy days are meant to restore us, to give us strength when the next set of hurdles arises. It’s how we respond to those challenges that shapes us. Judging ourselves solves nothing and makes our situations appear even more insurmountable.

As Christian Mystic John the Dwarf* wrote, “Be patient and calm…and have patience with your inner struggles.”

While the Most Divine has a purpose in us facing disease and other challenges, we may never understand why. And it’s fruitless to expect to always find meaning from them.

Eckhart Tolle, spiritual thinker and author, says, “Without obstacles, we wouldn’t evolve, develop new abilities, and expand our awareness.”

He believes we can overcome trials two ways: externally by taking action and internally by developing an awareness and inner strength that transcends our problems. Tolle recommends “treating challenges as friends that you can work with rather than as enemies plotting your demise.” Further, he suggests not wasting energy by getting wrapped up in the drama of the situation or illness.

I firmly believe that everything comes in its own time for its own reason.

We cannot know how these obstacles shape those around us and what different path those mountainous hurdles may put us on. Perhaps the way we live when times are at their most difficult will inspire others to live more fully.

*John the Dwarf, also known as Saint John Colobus, was an Egyptian Desert Father of the early Christian church.