When I was in college, I played a lot of NCAA college football. I usually played on easy, ran up the score, and get the highest possible score I could get. Even though it was fun, it wasn’t much of a challenge. So, to make it a little harder, I would play it on medium and pick one of the worst teams and try to win the NCAA championship. It was tough, and the challenge was appealing. But, when I started to lose a game, I hit reset and played it again just to keep my streak perfect. The problem was, even though I won every game, I didn’t appreciate the wins. It was too easy. I had fun in the short term, but it wasn’t a challenge.
We hate struggle, failure, and challenge. It’s tough, and we frankly would like to hit the reset button when we go through it. But, the reset button short circuits the sanctification process. Ministry is tough, and that’s why so many people run from it. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that God’s good is also aligned with our good. Suffering and struggle often feel like punishment, but God’s ways are always higher than ours. Here’s seven reasons why suffering and struggle are actually good for us.
1. Teaches us dependence on God.
Several weeks ago, the lottery hit $400 million. Lindsay and I were on vacation in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. While we were driving around one day, we were talking about what it would be like to actually win all that money. Our dreams and talk were good. Mostly selfless. We talked about giving to missions, helping family members out, and funding new non-profits and networks that I’ve dreamed of doing. Of course, we would pay off our mortgage, buy a couple new cars, and save for college for our kids. It sounds really good, but what would the result really be?
I think the one of the reasons why God just doesn’t solve every financial problem immediately is that He’s destroying one of our idols and teaching us dependence on Him. When you struggle, you learn that you must be completely dependent on God.
2. Helps us appreciate small wins.
When you struggle, fight, and hustle for progress, the small wins feel so much better. If it was too easy, the wins would feel expected instead of appreciated. An attitude of entitlement instead of humility and appreciation would take over.
3. Encourages us to work harder.
When challenge arises, people usually do one of three things: run from the challenge, deny that the challenge exists, or embrace challenge. Running from challenge is cowardly. Denying the challenge is stupid, but embracing challenge is sanctifying. It encourages us to dig deeper than we ever have before. We work harder, and it’s good for us.
4. Gives us an appreciation for those helping us.
Have you ever been offered help for something that comes easy to you? You usually politely thank the person for offering help, but you would probably decline. However, when you’re at your lowest point and your pride has been shot, you are much more likely to accept help. You appreciate those who help you.
5. Teaches us real lessons.
Every once in a while, there’s free kindle books that are available online. I download them if they look vaguely interesting. Because, they’re free! But, many times, I don’t read them. I didn’t spend any of my own money. There’s no risk of mine to download a free ebook. But when there is risk involved and I spend my own money, I’m going to read the book just out of principle. Because I read it, I get more out of it. Even if the free book had better content and better writing, I get zero value out of a book I don’t read.
When we face challenge, we learn real lessons. When life is easy, we are less likely to learn real lessons.
6. Teaches us perseverance.
One thing I desperately hope my children learn is the discipline of not quitting. Sometimes, my kids will want me to help them do something that I know they have the physical ability to do. But, I often try to resist the urge to help, so they keep trying. Many times, they’ll keep at it until finally they accomplish whatever task they attempted. And, I proudly encourage them for not giving up.
Too many times, we give up. We don’t persevere even if the biggest wins for us are right around the corner. Ministry is often about persevering through struggle and suffering. Some weeks seem rough, but it’s not prudent to quit. God is teaching us perseverance and staying strong.
7. Reminds us of our true identity in Jesus.
When we go through challenge, we are often reminded of our inadequacies and weaknesses. Many times, we see that we can’t achieve the results we want. The whole purpose of life is that we glorify God. We were created for worship, and when we feel inadequate and can give glory to God, that’s a win. We are reminded that Jesus is our sustainer, and He is our king. It’s not about us, but it’s all about Him. When church planting or ministry gives you struggle, remember that your success is not about you achieving the results you want. It’s about you being faithful to the call to follow Jesus.