The Importance of Struggle

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).

Dead Woman's Pass

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.

They grow.

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.

Photographer, filmmaker, journalist, adventurer. I'm somewhere, maybe Flagstaff, AZ.

12 comments on this post

  1. Marcy Dawson

    says:
    November 2, 2013

    Eric,

    Great article!! And I know that you are beng used to change lives in the most amazing way!!! I’m so proud of you.

    Reply
    • Eric Hanson

      says:
      November 2, 2013

      Thanks Marcy! I appreciate hearing that. And I certainly hope so!

      Reply
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  2. Helena Jordao

    says:
    November 3, 2013

    Truth! There is no need for strength if not for adversity. And we are guaranteed affliction, aren’t we? More opportunity to be refined and learn about ourselves and the character of God. Great blog, Eric.

    Reply
    • Eric Hanson

      says:
      November 3, 2013

      Thanks Helena, and well said!

      Reply
  3. Karla Henderson

    says:
    November 4, 2013

    Eric, we’ve never met, but your mom and I met in 7th grade and were close friends in high school. She took off to AZ for college and pretty much never came back to her IA roots. CAN’T imsgine why! 🙂 I bounced around a few diffetent States but returned to IA for the long run. You and your dad are amazing! Kathy (I used to call her “Squat”, but she can explain that to you!) Has done well by you and she has every reason to be proud. Keep up the great work and God bless.

    Reply
    • Eric Hanson

      says:
      November 4, 2013

      Hey thank you so much Karla! That’s some good info on my mom, I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to hear that one again! Iowa is a good place, and a better place with you there too!

      Reply
  4. Samantha Livingston

    says:
    November 21, 2013

    Couldn’t agree more. And if we all pooped in holes once a month we’d all be a lot nicer. Probably better listeners too.

    Reply

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