One of the most frustrating things in the spiritual life can be our seeming lack of progress. We pray, we go to Mass, we confess, we read books—and yet we seem to have little to show for it. It is easy to get frustrated, to give up and to put our spiritual life on the backburner.
Here’s the thing—the spiritual life is a struggle. It is not the work of a day or a moment or a single decision. Yes, God can sometimes work miracles of conversion that change a soul in an instant. But for most of us, that is not how we make progress. We grow by showing up, day after day after day. We mature by never quitting, despite frequent falls, discouragement, darkness, or failure.
The most talented athletes did not achieve their skill overnight. They put in long hours and disciplined themselves until they were exhausted. And they can never stop doing so or they will lose everything they have gained. Likewise, we become spiritual athletes through diligent practice—by showing up and putting in the hard work. And we can never quit doing so.
A wise man once said that our efforts spiritually speaking are like so many zeros strung together. They don’t add up to anything. But then, when we least expect it, God adds a one in front of our countless zeros, making our pitiful efforts more valuable than we can imagine. Take confidence: Each rosary, each communion, each confession is bearing fruit, though it is often hidden from our eyes. By doing these things, we are tilling the soil of our soul so God can plant the seeds of true maturity.
In the spiritual life, there is no such thing as a waste of time. God sees our efforts and our goodwill. He loves us, and by grace he