The Struggle is Real!
This is a saying that has become popular over the last couple of years. I imagine that most of us have heard, or even said, “the struggle is real.” Some people say it in jest. Others are quite serious about it. We have all struggled with something in our lives more than once.
But what happens when God is the one that either initiates the struggle or allows it in our lives? For a large portion of my life, I believed that if I had enough faith or did the right things, then my life would be easy. I believed that God would make everything nice and cozy for me. I believed that the verse in Romans that declares “God works all things together for our good” was my golden ticket for a non-suffering life. If I was suffering, surely it must be the devil fighting me, or some sin in my life.
I was wrong. I do believe that God does work all things together for our good as we trust him with our lives. However, maybe the good comes out of the struggle. Maybe the good is a direct result of the struggle.
I have always admired body-builders. I would love to have ripped abs and bulging biceps. But, I don’t want to struggle at the gym. I don’t want to struggle to eat right. I don’t want to struggle with the pain of working out. In this case, the only way that good is going to come forth is out of the struggle.
I have been through some struggles over the last several years. Deep and hard struggles that have shown me who I really am, who God really is and that have taught me valuable lessons. I appreciate the lessons as I don’t think I would have learned them any other way. However, the struggle was real, very real. I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but I wouldn’t trade the lessons I have learned.
Was God the instigator of the struggle? I don’t believe so. He did use it for my good and brought me into places that I may not have otherwise been able to go. As I look back on my life and think about the struggles that I went through as a young man: my parent’s divorce, my broken relationship with my dad, my numerous bouts of rejection, my parent’s issues that affected me. Each one of these helped shape me into the man that I am today. In some ways, those struggles helped me. In others, they hindered me and hurt me.
As I typed that last sentence I realize that it really wasn’t the struggle that defined me but my pattern of thinking concerning the struggle. How is that two people can go through similar struggles and one come out on top, the other devasted? I believe that it has to do with the way we view life, the way we view God and the way we view ourselves.
It is so easy to fall prey to the blame game, the “what if” game, the “oh, whoa is me” game. It was easy for me to blame others. A great, wise friend of mine instructed me to take ownership of my struggles. At first, I thought he was crazy. I was wanting others to hurt the way I did. I wanted justice for what they had done to me. I thought he was telling me that I was partly to blame for what had happened to me.
That wasn’t it at all. He was simply helping me to understand that the struggles I had gone through were part of my life and that I had to own that. I wasn’t taking responsibility for what had happened to me, only ownership. Until I was willing to take ownership of my struggles I would never be able to get past my struggle. It took me a long while to get it, but I finally did and I have used that same line of thinking with others who have come to me for help with their struggles.
The struggle is real. That is for sure. Sometimes, as a child of God, He allows us to face our struggles head on because he believes in us. Much like a parent allows their child to struggle in learning a new skill, such as riding a bike, He allows us to go through things that we don’t want to in order for us to learn how to depend on Him more, trust in the gifts and abilities He has given us, and to show us how strong and courageous we really can be.
The struggle is real . . . but it doesn’t have to be the end. Just ask the caterpillar. The lowly caterpillar’s struggle in its cocoon is simply the beginning of a greater life of freedom and beauty. The same could be said of us. Our struggle doesn’t have to be end. It can be the start of something more glorious.
What about you? What are you struggling with right now? What is it that makes you feel like you can’t go on? What in your life would cause you to say, “The struggle is real.”