Category Archives: Suffering

Faith Amid the Flames

(Originally posted on June 29, 2012)

This morning I sat in contemplation next to the  Blue River, where just one year ago sandbags were piled to hold off the rampaging waters that threatened nearby homes. Today smoke rises on the horizon as parts of this state burn for lack of that water we once disparaged. I grieve for the loss of lives and livelihoods, wilderness and wildlife, homes and hope that has resulted from this scourge of nature – so unpredictable and unmanageable.

A woman awaiting the call to evacuate says of her prayers for rain, “I no longer have faith it will happen.” These fires are indeed a brutal siege on our lives of relative comfort and safety. No wonder we falter and question the benevolence of the God we have believed watches after us. No wonder we fall into despair when the workings of this natural world, the creation of our Creator’s hand, are so contrary and destructive to our wellbeing.

How does faith survive amid the flames that swallow every touchstone and consume each talisman of our belief?

But fire has its own mysterious and miraculous presence, as it brings us warmth and light, heats food for our sustenance, tempers steel, melts glass for shaping, removes the chaff from a grain of wheat. We would not have the comforts of our lives without the fire we now fear and denounce. It is a paradox we can scarcely bear to acknowledge. Life requires us to see and experience both sides of fire – we cannot have the blessings without accepting the burdens.

Faith, too, is a mysterious force – arising from within, called forth by the touch of the Divine. Faith brings us comfort and sustenance, tempers and shapes our character and separates the mundane from what really matters in our lives. Faith burns inside us as we struggle and grow, fall apart and then get up again.

Truly our faith is not diminished by the disasters that befall us – only our ability to be inspired by that faith.

The flames that ravage the landscape around us distract us from the flame that burns within until we become exhausted with our struggling and resisting. Only then can we find comfort in the rising warmth of our own faith, a fire not doused by floods or tears.

Faith requires us to face both the glory and the gore of this existence with equanimity. We are asked by faith to get up after every fall and keep moving forward, to withstand both the deluge and the drought, to sort through the ashes of our despair and find the gems that lie hidden. Life requires us to see and experience both sides of faith – we cannot have the blessings without accepting the burdens.

In the midst of these devastating fires that threaten to wipe away our past, may we find faith in the present moment that promises each of us a new beginning.

Dr. Karen Wyatt is a hospice and family physician who writes extensively on spirituality and medicine, especially at the end-of-life. She is the author of the award-winning book “What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying.” Connect with her at, on Facebook at and on Twitter @spiritualmd.


Prayer for the Homeless



Last week on Thanksgiving Day my family and I spent a few hours roaming the streets of Los Angeles, handing out care packages to the homeless. We encountered many tragic individuals – people with mental illnesses, chronic physical disabilities and addictions, and some who for one reason or another were just down on their luck – all struggling to survive on the streets.

At the end of the day we felt more grateful than ever for all of the blessings that have been showered upon us during our lives. Were it not for mysterious grace, we ourselves could be among those in harm’s way on the city streets.

This week I learned that Pope Francis has perhaps been sneaking out of the Vatican at night,  in humble disguise, to minister to the poor and homeless on the streets of his city. My heart soars to think that perhaps there is a new dawning awareness that we are all one – we are all connected.

And when one of us suffers, we all suffer.

There is boundless need for our compassion and generosity in this world – and, thankfully, it turns out that our capacity for giving is boundless, as well. We simply have to open our eyes, don a humble disguise, and be present to the pain and suffering of our brethren. I offer a prayer for those who dwell in vulnerable situations this day.

Prayer for the Homeless

 O Creator of shelter and storm,

we gather under

shingled roofs and marbled domes,

sacred canopies and vaulted rafters,

to ask that your

infinite and invisible hand

cover and protect

all those who slumber

under troubled skies,

without the comfort of

familiar walls and well-worn floors

to surround and hold

their cares.

May those who have lost

their homes and hearths –

whether through flood or fire,

frailty or foreclosure –

find hope in the stars

that blanket their misfortune,

comfort in our prayers

that swathe their suffering,

and safety in the connectedness

that weaves their hearts

together with all other life.

Until we all find our

true abode

in the Universe,

bless those who sleep

without a home

this night.

Dr. Karen Wyatt is “America’s Spiritual MD” who writes about spirituality and health and coping with life’s difficulties. Read more about her work at and contact her at [email protected].


What To Do When Things Fall Apart


Life is tough, there’s no question about that. Sooner or later nearly everyone finds a time when nothing seems to make sense any more, life is going nowhere and there’s no clear path to follow. Maybe you hate your job or the relationship you’re in or you are just tired of it all, but you don’t know what to do.

These dark times in life are actually opportunities – fertile ground for growth and change. But you need to have a game plan in order to make the most of the situation. If you spend too much time feeling hopeless and trapped you might end up getting sick or having an accident. When you refuse to change, life has its own way of forcing you to grow.

Here’s a simple little plan of attack for those times when you feel stuck and need to get moving. Focus your attention on these things to help get yourself back in a more creative mode and figure out what changes you need to make:

  1. Get a journal and start writing in it every day if possible. You need to get your thoughts organized and have a place to ventilate your emotions.
  1. Spend some time in quiet meditation and contemplation every day about what’s going on in your life so you can begin to make sense of things.
  1. Give up your anger at other people and especially at yourself. Anger is just a waste of energy and time and you can’t afford to squander either one. Recognize that anger is a state of mind that can be changed instantly. As soon as you become aware of it, choose to let it go.
  1. Accept that life doesn’t follow your plans – it has its own path and timing and is a mystery much of the time. Give up trying to control your situation to make it turn out the way you want.
  1. Be grateful for everything. Your life could be so much worse than it is right now. Look for the good things in all aspects of your life and spend a little time every day reminding yourself of them. If you can’t see anything good in your life then you need to go visit a homeless shelter or a long-term care facility and spend some time with people who have nothing – not even their health.
  1. Live all aspects of your life with integrity. Take a look at how you spend your free time and decide if your activities reflect the highest part of yourself. Be honest about it and make changes if necessary.
  1. Live within your means. If you have to give up something now remember that it is only temporary – when your situation changes you may be able to expand your lifestyle again. This is hard but it is important to demonstrate that you can be responsible for the resources you have and live with discipline.

Remember the old saying “This too shall pass,” meaning that everything, both bad and good, eventually comes to an end. Someday this difficult time will become just a memory. Hopefully you will have made the most of this opportunity and learned some valuable lessons from it that will help you in the future. That’s how we grow: one failure and one recovery at a time.

If you would like to learn more about growing spiritually through the difficult times of life, check out The 7 Lessons Wisdom Path. This workshop will show you how to navigate life’s challenges and find joy in the process. Learn more here.

Dr. Karen Wyatt is “America’s Spiritual MD” who writes about spirituality and health and coping with life’s difficulties. Read more about her work at and contact her at [email protected].