Is There a Point to Struggle?

Ever caught yourself asking, “Why God do we have to struggle?” Or maybe just, “why?” I did recently …

After pouring my heart and soul into something, it felt like everything was falling flat and I couldn’t understand why.

Why do we need to struggle when our intentions are clearly good?

Why does it feel sometimes like you’re taking one step forward and five back?

Why does it feel like you’re being kicked while down and God doesn’t seem to do anything about that.

Why does it need to be hard when you’re actually trying to do something for him?

Just why.

What do we make of this?

Or, what should we make of this?

I honestly don’t have a good answer for you. I don’t even have a good answer that satisfies me.

But, that’s the way of the world in my experience.

And even more so for any person searching for God and trying to build their life on his ways.

For example, many of the ancient believers shared a common story of struggle.

But their struggle was actual struggle. They endured things that are quite frankly unimaginable to most modern day people.

In fact, many of them would probably look at our challenges today and think to themselves “what on earth are you on about?”

However, we also have our struggles.

And when someone feels a sense of overwhelm, it doesn’t really matter what the source is, it’s still overwhelming.

And the question is still essentially the same, namely “what sense should we make of this?”

Why struggle when your intentions are good?

Why struggle when you’re trying to live a good life?

Why struggle when you’re trying to be godly and holy?

Why struggle when you sincerely just want to do what you believe God calls you to do?

Why should that be hard?

Like I said, I have no satisfactory answer to that question.

I’m probably struggling with this as much as the next person.

But in order to keep moving forward, one has to find some way to make sense of it.

It is in times like these that I turn to the ancient scriptures for wisdom.

What do they say?

What words of insight can I unearth from them?

What ideas can I find in them that might give some relief?

Well, and this is where it gets interesting, the scriptures, like many of the saints of the past, actually welcomed struggle.

Why is that?

Because, struggle had a different purpose to them. Struggle was a means to an end. A better end. And it was therefore meaningful.

We read that St Paul (author of most of the New Testament) wrote that they rejoiced in their sufferings.

Why would anyone “rejoice” in their struggle or suffering?

Because he believed that struggle and suffering produce endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and that hope does not put anyone to shame.

In the reason that hope doesn’t put anyone to shame is because it’s been validated by God’s love poured into people’s hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to people (Romans 5:3-6). It is therefore true and real. And because it is true and real, enduring suffering makes sense.

Struggle and suffering ultimately make us better.

It takes us into a higher dimension of life.

It helps us experience a deeper connection with God.

It shapes us into the people we were meant to be.

When things are easy, nothing changes.

There is no point embracing and rejoicing in “easy.” It serves no purpose.

We get stronger when working out.

We get faster when doing speed drills.

We obtain knowledge by learning.

We pass tests by studying.

Better wine comes from a vine planted in hard soil.

Gold is refined in the fire.

Diamonds come from coal under pressure.

“Struggle” makes no sense if we believe the purpose of life is “easy.”

“Struggle” only makes sense when we realise the purpose of life is “becoming holy like our father is holy.”

Being moulded into who we were meant to be.

But holiness comes at a price. It comes through struggle.

Not senseless struggle, but is purposeful struggle.

And when we can surrender in the struggle, God can make us more.

He can do more through us when we stop believing we know best.

He can give more good gifts when we start letting go of our ideas of what good gifts really are.

We can be renewed when we surrender the old.

Struggle is not an end in itself. That would be suffering without meaning.

Struggle is a gateway to hope.

Without struggle why would anyone need hope.

Why would anyone look beyond themselves for more?

If all we need is within ourselves, why need more?

Struggle reminds us that we were made for more.

That we are more.

But more is only possible when we first experience less … and find peace amidst the struggle.

When we find rest amidst the chaos.

When we can truly and finally say, “I trust you Abba Dad, let your will be done …”

I’ll finish with a word from one of history’s best theologians, Thomas à Kempis, in “The Imitation of Christ:”

IT IS good for us to have trials and troubles at times, for they often remind us that we are on probation and ought not to hope in any worldly thing.

It is good for us sometimes to suffer contradiction, to be misjudged by men even though we do well and mean well. These things help us to be humble and shield us from vainglory. When to all outward appearances men give us no credit, when they do not think well of us, then we are more inclined to seek God Who sees our hearts. Therefore, a man ought to root himself so firmly in God that he will not need the consolations of men.

When a man of good will is afflicted, tempted, and tormented by evil thoughts, he realises clearly that his greatest need is God, without Whom he can do no good. Saddened by his miseries and sufferings, he laments and prays.

He wearies of living longer and wishes for death that he might be dissolved and be with Christ. Then he understands fully that perfect security and complete peace cannot be found on earth.

May light and peace fill your life.