One of my favorite book quotes is this one from Tsh Oxenreider in her book At Home In the World. During their month visiting China, she wrote herself this reminder:
“You’re in China, which is hard. But you can do hard things. You won’t be here long. Lean in to the struggles; give thanks for the easy times. Hard doesn’t mean wrong. You’re on the right path.”
Hard doesn’t mean wrong. I cannot tell you how many times I have repeated this phrase to myself in the past year.
We tend to glorify the easy; if something comes naturally we assume it is right. So then with that logic, if something is hard, it must be wrong. I disagree with this on a theological level. It’s sort of like the “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle” pseudo-verse that I still can’t locate anywhere in the Bible. And, from my semi-short life experience, I have already seen numerous ways that He has, in fact, given me more than I could handle. It’s just that He actually holds those things for us, and walks with us in them, and with that we actually can handle them. We just can’t handle them alone. He tells us that life will be hard – in this world you WILL have troubles! So we do ourselves and everyone around us a disservice if we think He won’t let us walk through hard things. Then when those hard things come it just makes us bitter towards Him instead of what it is intended for, which is to invite us to trust Him more.
When you look back on your life, are the things that have shaped you, most impacted you, changed you for the better, were those the things that were easy? When I look back it’s the challenges, the frustrations, the hard relational moments, the stepping into the unknown that changed my life and made me who I am.
I made the mistake a few years ago of hearing the Lord’s invitation to courage. (Hehe.) I stated naively to some friends that my mantra for the year would be “do what scares you.” As if that was a good idea!! Life has been characterized by scary and hard things ever since, and I hate it and also love it, because it is where growth happens.
So I continued to practice this in this past year; do what scares you. Typically it has meant dates, new work challenges, hard relational conversations, and sometimes going to the gym (okay who are we kidding it almost never involves the gym). Some of these work out really well. Some are continually hard. (I’ll let you guess which ones are which). Doing what scares you means saying yes when comfort and safety beg us to say no.
In my work it meant believing that conversations about hard things were worth having. It meant that simply sitting with someone instead of trying to fix everything might just be what we are supposed to do. It looked like a lot of tears and learning to ask for help and calling and crying with a friend instead of alone. It looked like admitting when I’d messed up and also advocating for myself and others when I knew it was right. It meant trusting that God doesn’t make mistakes and He doesn’t invite us into things for no reason. And, it taught me that JOY is always possible, and we often experience it even deeper after hard times.
I don’t really know when courage became a friend of mine, someone I recognized and knew well. All I know is that one of the greatest compliments someone can give me is to call me brave. Maybe it was when I made fear an enemy, when I finally started recognizing him for what he is, maybe then I started looking for the better way. Fear sucks and there has to be an alternative.
I think we can always justify making the easy choice. We can always choose comfort. But a life lived well involves discomfort and requires courage. I like to surround myself with people who are walking in this same mindset. I can’t pretend to have a wealth of knowledge on this idea, I am sure that the future involves much bigger and scarier choices and invitations than any I have seen thus far. But from my small experience, I can promise you that it is worth it. Try the new thing, risk the fail, ask her (or him!) out, visit a new place, whatever it is for you. I think we all have those things in the back of our minds. And guess what? Saying you’ll do something “someday” most likely means never. Just saying. I said that maybe I would be an RD someday, and then all of a sudden that someday was today. I keep saying I’ll write a book and I keep finding ways not to do that. Someday is a dangerous mindset because it requires no real commitment and no real work. It blames time for our laziness. If you want to do that thing – JUST DO IT. Let this be your permission to try. And maybe fail gloriously, friend. You’ll (most likely) be okay. Call me if it goes terribly and we will figure it out together.
All this to say, at the end of the day I just don’t really think you can judge whether something is right or wrong by whether it is easy or hard. Hard doesn’t mean wrong. Easy doesn’t mean right. And honestly, easy doesn’t mean wrong and hard doesn’t mean right.
I saw this play out this past year and am equally excited and terrified to see what it looks like in the coming year. I am choosing each day to take courage, to do what scares me, to trust the God knows what He is doing. I hope you do the same.