Sometime ago a person came to me for pastoral care. They spent more than hour describing all the problems in their life and in the world. They kept asking "why me," "why must I suffer in this way." This is a classic question one gets in pastoral care, and I've been asked it many times in many different circumstances. There are various answers to it, depending on the circumstances under which is asked. The most powerful answer, the answer that is most transformative is "why not you?" No one ever said that life would be easy. Nor does living "righteously" mean less suffering. Wisdom suggests quite the opposite.
So the "why not you" answer is the advanced ninja-priest answer that you only give when you think the person is ready to receive it. It can be a real bomb of a response. I can remember with crystal clarity receiving that answer for the first time when I was receiving counseling from a priest as a child. Changed my life--no kidding.
Alas, often someone who is going through their litany of problems isn't actually interested in transformation or growth. Really they just want to sympathy. Sympathy enables them to sustain their state of self-focused suffering. Sharing and having their feelings validated allows them to continue suffering the changes and chances of this mortal life without change. But as a priest/caregiver I can't always offer that kind of unconditional sympathy in good conscience. Sometimes you gotta take the risk of challenging someone to grow. This must always be done in a loving and responsible way. I rely mostly on instinct and experience to make that call about when to be congruent and when to be dissident in counseling situations.
Truly masterful therapists, in my experience on the receiving end, spend most of their time agreeing with their clients (cf. Carl Rogers' three rules of unconditional positive regard, congruence, and empathy). But then in a special moment the therapist whips out zinger of an insight. From the client's perspective this insight seems to come out of nowhere, though it's often a fairly common place notion that they may have even thought about themselves. Somehow, though, when it is said in this context it can change everything. Good stuff.
Patronal Feast (the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene) is tomorrow. It's going to be a great celebration. I'm looking forward to it.