'Struggle,' Redefined (Or, When You Feel Like You're Losing the Battle, Stop Waging the War)

Struggling is a part of life, and it’s certainly a part of parenthood. We struggle with the decisions we’re making on our children’s behalfs. We struggle to make ends meet, to feed the family. We struggle through health problems, job losses, marital strife and a host of other things that weigh on our hearts and minds and wallets, all the while being called upon for carefree smiles and piggyback rides and “one more book, please!”

It seems like this is the season for struggling, as many people I know and love are in the thick of it, with no clear end in sight. We’ve had our share of struggles this year, too, and it’s added stress that saps the spirit and clutters the mind.

In light of that fact, I came across two things recently that gave me both pause and inspiration, so I thought I’d share them. One is religious; one is not. Perhaps someone else out there who is struggling will read these words and be able to dig just a little bit deeper inside oneself for the faith, strength and will to carry on. We’re all in this together, after all.

The first is from Chuck Swindoll’s Insight for Today daily online devotional posted Wednesday, Aug. 25. It was about 2 Corinthians 1, a letter from Paul in which he “spells out the details of his persecution, loneliness, imprisonments, beatings, feelings of despair, hunger, shipwrecks, sleepless nights, and that ‘thorn in the flesh’ — his companion of pain.”

Swindoll dissects Paul’s words in a way I found particularly helpful:

“...There is another observation worth noting in 2 Corinthians 1. No less than three reasons are given for suffering, each one introduced with the term ‘that’: ‘that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction’; ‘that we would not trust in ourselves’; ‘that thanks may be given’ (vv. 4, 9, 11). Admittedly, there may be dozens of other reasons, but here are three specific reasons we suffer. 
Reason #1: God allows suffering so that we might have the capacity to enter into others’ sorrow and affliction. 
Reason #2: God allows suffering so that we might learn what it means to depend on Him. Over and over He reminds us of the danger of pride, but it frequently takes suffering to make the lesson stick. 
Reason #3: God allows suffering so that we might learn to give thanks in everything. Now, honestly, have you said, ‘Thanks, Lord, for this test’? Have you finally stopped struggling and expressed to Him how much you appreciate His loving sovereignty over your life? 
How unfinished and rebellious and proud and unconcerned we would be without suffering! May these things encourage you the next time God heats up the furnace!”

In particular, I like the idea that the suffering I endure is not a test but a gift, a gift that bestows the ability to empathize with another human being who also suffers. It is obvious but we don’t often see or acknowledge this perspective when we are in the depths of our own hardship.

The second bit of inspiration I came across is from a post titled “Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose,” from the blog Cage Free Family. Cage Free Family is a blog about a family who gave away virtually all their possessions and bought a 25-year-old RV to hit the road and teach their kids, and themselves, about the differences between “want” and “need.”

You should really check out the entire post, but I’ll give you a good teaser here:

“... Your choice is in perspective. It’s all how you look at it and this too shall pass. The thing you bemoan now will be the source of nostalgia in the future. The change you perceive as a loss now is actually the door to something new. Loss makes room for gain. Death makes room for new life. Trying to hold onto a moment, a life situation, is like trying to hold onto your breath. You can't. Things will be as they are meant to be - with or without your approval. Worry is only an echo of that thinly veiled and unenforceable threat. It’s rather like trying to avoid getting wet when you're already soaked. ;-)

Life will be what it will be. Everything you experience is for you. It’s a gift. It’s what makes life worth living: the contrast of moments. The lifting, exhilarating inhale ... the sweet, peace of the pause, the utterly necessary, releasing exhale. Just breathe. Let it be. Life is beautiful. Do your best. Live with intention and acceptance. Loooooove. Everything. While you can. Because, Baby, you don’t have forever. The only thing you will ever truly have is the opportunity to see the beauty of this one fleeting moment. Savor the pain as fully as you taste the pleasure. This moment is the only thing that can be promised to you. Love it for whatever it is.

How lucky are we?”

How inspirational is that? “The only thing you will ever truly have is the opportunity to see the beauty of this one fleeting moment.”

This is what I’ve been trying to put into practice lately. When some aspect of my life feels oppressive or shaken or feeble at best, I keep my heart open and fill it with anything I can. Faith. Peace. My kids’ laughter. A warm memory. Thankfulness. The staggering beauty of the written word. Empathy.

And just like that, I feel lucky again.


Heather said...

Wow. If that doesn't put things in perspective, nothing will Thanks again Robyn for reminding me. I have a feeling I will be reading this one again, over and over again, especially in the next few months with all the changes that will be happening.

Lis said...

Thanks for this entry Robyn. I needed this especially today.

Lyn said...

some perfect words to remind us of something simple...Just love. A way of life, a phiolosphy...a beautiful choice.

thanks for reminding us of how lucky we are...especially when it is much easier to believe that bad luck has found us.