Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lies we believe: All hard things are bad things

If there's one thing I've learned in my 25 (almost 26!) years on earth, it's this: life is hard. People are always going through difficult things - health problems, issues in relationships, conflict at work, financial difficulties, the list goes on and on... most people could easily list a dozen things in their lives or the lives of those they love that are hard right now. But here's the lie many people believe: every hard thing is a bad thing.

Where does this lie come from? Where does this get implanted in children, teenagers, and adults alike? How come we spend so much time setting our lives up to avoid hard things, while reality would show with unbelievable clarity that we cannot escape difficulty? I'm sure the sources of this lie are plentiful, but two that come to my mind are marketing/advertising, and the illusion of "The American Dream".

Marketing (and advertising, but I'll just use the word marketing) bases its success on convincing us that the good life is the comfortable life. It's the life without conflict or difficulty, and only their product - be it a car, a beverage, or a nose trimmer - will bring you closer to the ideal of the comfortable life. But cars break down, beverages run out, and nose trimmers... well, they don't really satisfy either but let's not get mad at the nose trimmer for that. Nose trimmers do a great deal of good for people with abnormally long nose hairs. Back to my point... I've read numerous articles that say we are bombarded with around 3000 images every day that try to sell us something and try to convince us that what we need is more comfort and less difficulty. This inundates us from a young age to believe that the goal is comfort and the enemy is hard things.

The illusion of "The American Dream" also wages war on the reality that life is hard. I think that this generation is understanding it a little better than the past couple generations, but nonetheless, the dream of home ownership, a nice backyard, some money in the IRA, and the status symbols of the best technology and fanciest cars (at least fancier than enough people you know to make you feel good about yourself) are paramount to millions of people. But so few people attain it and, from what I can tell, most people who get to the place others only dream about getting to will say it's all empty and vain.

There are many other things that convince us that all hard things are bad things. But this is a lie my friends, a flat out lie. God has allowed difficulty, suffering, hardships (call it what you may) in our lives to bring us closer to him, to pry from our greedy little hands the very things that enslave us, and to show us that he is the ONLY all-satisfying experience in the world. To be clear, I'm not saying we should embrace hardship in such a way that we look for it or create it for ourselves, but I am saying that we should be ready to, at any moment, have our worlds rocked and be brought to our knees. You and I are one phone call, one stupid driver on the road, or one parasite away from everything being changed. And you know what? That's not a bad thing. God is enough in those moments when people desert you or die, when way more money is going out than coming in, when health is hard to regain.

What hard thing are you going through right now? How do you view that hardship? Do you see God's goodness in it or is your only prayer that God would alleviate your suffering? Have you reflected on your Savior's suffering on the cross in your place, for your sins lately? Have you, with Paul and many others, been so radically changed by the Gospel that your prayers are more grateful in times of hardship rather than less? If not, ask God to shift your thinking, to grow your understanding of what he may be doing in the difficult time, and realize that while we can't escape the lure of marketing/advertising/the American Dream illusion, we can transcend it and cling to God.

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