Excerpts from Making All things New by Henri Nouwen (from Devotional Classics, edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith)
The spiritual life is a gift. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who lifts us up into the kingdom of God’s love. But to say that being lifted up into the kingdom of love is a divine gift does not mean that we wait passively until the gift is offered to us.
Jesus tells us to set our hearts on the kingdom. Setting our hearts on something involves not only serious aspiration but also strong determination. A spiritual life requires human effort. The forces that keep pulling us back into a worry-filled life are far from easy to overcome.
“How hard it is,” Jesus exclaims, “… to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10; 23). And to convince us of the need for hard work, he says. “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16: 24)
How has your journey been like receiving a gift? In what sense has it been hard work?