Has anyone ever told you that God wants you to intentionally do hard things?
We don’t like to do hard things in our society. We avoid doing hard things as much as we can. And yet, nearly everything God commands is hard. Repenting is hard. Forgiving is hard. Turning the other cheek is hard. Overcoming sin in our lives is hard. Honoring our parents is hard. Sharing the gospel is hard. Reading our Bibles is hard. We could go on and on.
We don’t like to admit that following Jesus is hard. As a Christian, it should be easy to do the things we’re supposed to do, right? Part of our hesitation to call spiritual things hard can be that we’re afraid to come across as unspiritual. After all, if we’re truly “on fire” for Jesus, shouldn’t it be easy for us to read our Bibles every day, forgive others, resist sinful temptations, and share the gospel with others?
But when we think that way, we’re missing something huge that God wants to teach us about personal growth and His plan for our lives.
In James 1:2-4, we’re told “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
We’re told to consider it “pure joy” when we’re faced with challenges, trials, and obstacles, because they test our faith and makes us stronger. Think about that: The God who created you and loves you cares about your growth. And the way He has designed you to grow is through challenges.
When you work out, your muscles grow stronger. When you challenge yourself mentally your brain grows new neurons. When you do hard things, you grow, both in character and in practical areas of competence.
If we want to grow, we need to get over the idea that God’s love means He wants us to go through life with as little effort or discomfort as possible. This is similar to the mistaken notion that we don’t need to change because God loves us just the way we are. God does love us just the way we are, but He also loves us too much to leave us that way. He wants us to grow.
This is more than just saying that hard things happen and that you can benefit from them. This is saying that you should intentionally do hard things and that it’s the best and only way to experience true growth in your life.
Theodore Roosevelt said it well when he said, “a mere life of ease is not in the end a satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world.” Such a life is a tragedy — a wasted life.
The pandemic has served as an excuse for some of us to retreat into our comfort zone. We stay away from church, we stay away from youth activities, bible studies and even school. It’s allowed us to keep away from those situations that might have allowed us to be challenged in the past.
God isn’t glorified when His children limit themselves to what comes easily for them. He isn’t glorified when His children aren’t willing to do hard things. The Christian calling is hard, but it is also the only calling worthy of such extraordinary effort.
It’s time for us to re-engage in the world. Come back to church, to bible studies, to youth activities and to emerge from our “safe spaces” and challenge each other to be the men and women God is calling us to be. Our greatest joy and satisfaction comes not from avoiding hard things but from joyfully embracing them.