I wonder if the American dream hasn't been distorted more than a little bit. Once it was that if you work hard enough you can achieve wealth and a family and live in that white house with the picket fence. But now we think we deserve everything that comes our way. The good stuff anyway. The bad is all someone else's fault. I can't help but wonder though if that dream, that mindset hasn't messed us up a little too. I've just finished up my first semester of college and let me tell you, it was hard. Hard but good. And at first I couldn't reconcile that in my mind. If this is where I'm supposed to be, why is it so hard? Why is it so hard to be away from my friends and family? Why are those friendships changing? Why do I have to make new ones? Why don't these professors understand? But then it hit me. Something inside me has been running from "hard" my whole life. So many of my decisions were based on what was or wasn't difficult. I stayed with my group of friends because it was hard to make new ones, and it's hard to be vulnerable. I volunteered at youth group because it was the natural thing, it was what everyone did. I gave up every time I started working out. I gave up on guitar. And sure none of that was bad. I never had sex. I never did drugs. But I never worked at anything that didn't come naturally to me either.
College is not natural to me. Everything about it has taken effort on my part and I thought about giving up on more than one occasion. But maybe it's taken all this for Jesus to get through to me what He's been trying to tell me the whole time: I need Him. Such a simple lesson. One I've heard and said a million times. But I'm learning it all over again. This relationship we have is so much more difficult than I ever believed. Not because He's not here (He is), not because He doesn't care, but because He does care. And that is incredibly hard to believe and accept and because I don't know how to really listen. How do you ask God to teach you to listen to Him when you can't hear a response? When you strain your ears but all you hear is silence, and maybe some birds chirping. Maybe that is when you give up. Maybe that is when He steps in and says "It's okay. I'm here. And I'll give you as long as it takes" And maybe that's when you realize that what you ought to be listening to is your heart.
When I look back at Jesus' ministry, that's when I know I shouldn't be striving for an easy life. Nothing about Jesus' life was easy. He loved and learned and grew from the beginning and who knows how much of that came easily to Him. Probably not all of it. And then He went into ministry and loved people who would never love Him back. He forgave people who hurt Him time and again. He walked for miles and taught and healed until He was exhausted. And then He did it some more. And then as if all of that wasn't enough, He let them nail him to a cross. He hung there for hours. He breathed His last, in agony, brokenhearted and surrounded by a crowd of mockers. Then, when it looked like all hope was gone, three days gone, He. Came. Back. If that ain't love I don't know what is.
He's willing and able to do that in me. He can raise the dead inside of me. He can help me love the hard to love, and forgive the ones who've hurt me. He can help me do the hard things. And that is more beautiful than words can express. Maybe it even makes the challenges a little more colorful, a little more exciting. I know that whatever comes, no matter the difficulty, He can work through me and do immeasurably more than I ever could have imagined. He makes it all worth it. Hard is good because He is with me. And with you. Don't forget that.