The Importance of Struggle
I hate conflict. I hate when life is hard.
As a culture we spend a lot of energy trying to make life easier, daydreaming of the times when we won’t have to go to work, yearning for all of life to fall into fairytale ease.
Yet life doesn’t work like that. And for good reason. We need conflict. We need difficulty in our lives. We need to go through challenges.
We don’t change when life is easy. We change through conflict.
This is a concept I see every time I go to work. I work in wilderness therapy with young adults, many of whom are drug addicts. Many of the kids come from privileged backgrounds and have had far too much ease in life. By that I mean not having to work, having daddy’s credit card, lots of toys, etc. When these kids show up in the high deserts of Southern Utah, they hate it. They’ve traded in their comfy beds for a half inch foam pad, a sleeping bag, and a tarp for a shelter. They poop in holes in the ground and clean their cups with dirt (ironically, dirt is an amazingly effective cleaning agent).
Life in wilderness therapy is not easy. Very intentionally so. It’s not easy by design, because people don’t change if they are comfortable.
By having these young adults hike and carry gear and dig holes and do hard things, through making them uncomfortable, they change.
I’ve been rereading Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In it, Miller talks about how it is common for people to spend their lives seeking comfort and fleeing discomfort or conflict. He comes to realize that people’s lives are just like stories. Miller realizes that in order for a story to be meaningful, the protagonist has to face great obstacles on the way to his goal. And the same goes for real life.
He discovered he wasn’t living a good story. His life was adrift. Once he realized that, he started being more intentional with viewing his life like a story to help him live a better one. After that, he got in shape and hiked the Inca Trail, he met his dad after years of his father being out of his life, he rode a bicycle across the country to support a cause, he started The Mentoring Project to help others growing up without their fathers.
Life is hard. Instead of being discouraged when we face obstacles, we can embrace them. Because obstacles have a way of making us better if we allow them the space.
If we change how we view struggle, hardship, and challenges in life, we can endure, and through the difficulties, we can grow.
We can approach life in a way that better equips us to live more meaningful lives.