It's easy for me to be discouraged in my spiritual walk. Progress isn't usually visible to me. I feel dutiful rather than personal in my relationship with Christ. Today's meditation in Magnificat (by Father Bede Jarrett, O.P.) really spoke to me:
Faith is the basis of life, and charity is its crown; but hope is its greatest need. Most of the difficulties of life come because man is so prone to lose heart. His distractions in prayer suggest to him that he was not meant for such high acts. His weekly tale of sins at confession seems to imply by its almost identical repetition that it is useless for him to continue his efforts at "a firm purpose of amendment." His faltering attempts at perfection disconcert him from any very persistent or long-continued service. . . The whole of life tends to depress a man who is at all conscious of his capacities, his responsibilities, and his failures. He is, then, a great sinner? Not at all. He has lost his faith and love? Most certainly not. What, then, is wanting to him? Hope. He has given up hope; he is disheartened; he is too discouraged to go on. He is very human; oh yes, but he is very foolish also: for when hope has gone, all is over. Failure counts for nothing; defeat, disappointment--these matter nothing at all, so long as only hope sits patiently, stirring the embers, watching and tending the fire, coaxing the flame, never despairing and never leaving the wind to work its will. That the clouds should come up over the sky, or that darkness should encircle the earth, brings no real terrors, for we are sure that the dawn will come out again and that the sun will break through with its golden glory.
That image of hope tending the fire and stirring the embers is beautiful, don't you think?