I have a friend who’s father disowned him. My friend was studying to be a lawyer at the time but (to make a very long story short), decided to go in a very different direction, one that wouldn’t bear much money or prestige. So his father, not knowing what to do, kicked him out of the house.
My friend had recently become acquainted with the teachings of Jesus and decided to apply them to this situation. On one particular occasion he broke into his father’s house, shined every one of his shoes, then left a note, something akin to “I really want to be your friend.” He bombarded his father with this Jesus stuff – no preaching, no “you’re going to hell” – just merciful acts that required a level of strength and courage that few can muster. It took a really long time, but it worked.
Put that in your Bible.
This guy, in many respects, is my hero. Knowing him has changed my life. We have alot in common – lots of past hurts – but we’ve lived different lives. Whenever he runs into something difficult, he tends to chose the path that requires strength and courage. I tend to take the easy way out. It’s no surprise that he’s stronger and more courageous than I am, despite the fact that he’s really, really skinny.
I used to think that strong people were born that way, but knowing him has convinced me otherwise. Strength and courage aren’t inherited, they’re built in moments that really suck, places that are scary. We might not “win” or “prevail” when life dumps something miserable in our lap, but we’re guaranteed to come out the other side a changed person if we can somehow manage to hold fast and engage the suckiness.
We’ll change if we run away too. Weakness and fear are built in those moments when we (understandably) find some reason to excuse ourselves from the hard stuff. Ironically, it’s just as hard to stay put in the difficult moments as it is to live in weakness and fear.
One thing that we all have in common is the hardship that seems to be constantly nipping at our heels. Life isn’t fair, nothing good is easy, there are no good pursuits that don’t require some level of sacrifice, pain, and courage, blah, blah, blah. We’ll never be left wanting for hard times.
But don’t go it alone. I have another friend who recently faced a horribly difficult situation – worst case scenario – but for some reason felt that he had to figure out everything by himself. It didn’t work. To navigate the hard things alone is to fail. Every time. Mentors, therapists, honest friends, strong people, cheerleaders, etc. come part and parcel to a not-miserable life. You won’t make it without them.
If we want to have anything resembling a decent life we’ll have to get used to difficulty – let it in, stay put, give it permission to shape us into the kind of people that know joy, peace, hope, influence, etc, regardless of what’s going on around us. That’s the life we want for our kids. It’s the life that God wants for us.
Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying.
Whatever it is inside that locks us to the ground in hard times has to be challenged, like a muscle. It can’t be worked out in a gym where everything’s safe and predictable, a place where we call the shots – it’s only stretched and shaped in dark places. The more we work it out, the stronger it gets, the easier it is to stay put – to do what’s right when everything goes wrong.
Few things are more fundamental to a great life than staying put when everything inside is telling us to run.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Winston Churchill