People are funny about difficulty. We seem to think it will eventually go away; that the difficult tests in high school will give way to a seamless college transition, or the frustrating group projects in college will lead to a perfectly romantic marriage. We think marriage will solve our loneliness and having kids will give us purpose. Yet each one of these seasons contains its own brand of difficulty; each one of these seasons, in its own way, is hard.
We tend to view hard seasons as something to get through rather than experiences from which we can learn, but that is exactly what they are. Studying for the SAT, attending frustrating meetings, fighting for our marriages and raising children all teach us skills we need to succeed in life as a whole. And really, if you think about it, these things are what make life whole in the first place.
As we go through difficulty, the things inside of us come to the surface. We find out our strengths and our weaknesses. We learn what angers us and what brings us joy. Sometimes the ugly truth about our character is brought to light and we have to repent to God and man for the things we’ve done. But through the pain of it, we grow.
…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience… (Colossians 1:11)
The hard seasons teach us to depend on God, making us more aware of His presence and power. In times of ease and abundance, we may be grateful, but we are not desperate. Difficulty forces us to seek God’s love, strength and peace when we have nothing else to lean on. As we seek Him, our eyes are opened to His movement and we see His work more clearly. Quite often, we draw closer to God in the hard seasons than at any other time in our lives.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
These difficulties refine us; they make us stronger, better versions of who we were before. We learn to appreciate what and who we have in our lives, noticing the small things and treasuring moments without rushing into what is next. Like a physical workout, pressing on through difficulty strengthens our hearts for further challenges, and we find within ourselves a capability we didn’t even know we had.
If we spend our lives trying to avoid the hard seasons, we’ll miss our lives altogether. Difficulty is what we look back on and say, “If I did that, I can do this.” And most of all, the hard seasons open our eyes to God’s hand in ways the good times cannot. It’s the hard times that make the good times so sweet. It’s the difficult seasons that enrich our life stories, giving us purpose and drive. The hard seasons are worth it because life is worth it.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)