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I have a confession to make. I don’t like hard things.

If given the choice, I will almost always choose the path of least resistance. Generally, I live my life hoping to avoid conflict and difficulty, making sure everyone is pleased, while putting forth the least effort possible. Can anyone relate?

Unfortunately, most of the important things in life require a determined effort.  Take parenting for example. Rarely if ever do things go as planned! If I took the path of least resistance in motherhood, I would absolutely be dominated by my four strong-willed boys.

In this season of life, I find that much of my time is taken up with things that take substantial effort.

Listen, I don’t mind some sweat and tears if I have a good reward for my work, but what about when the rewards feel far off? What about when we do our hardest work, but the results are anything but what we hoped for? It’s in these moments that we can find ourselves disillusioned and discouraged, both with our circumstances and ultimately with where God has placed us.

I have found over the years, both in my own life and also in listening to the stories told in my counseling office, that when we, as Christ-followers, experience resistance and difficulty, we often interpret this as meaning that we are somehow not in God’s will: as if difficulty were a sign that we are not on the right path or that we’ve done something wrong.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The Lord reminded me this week that avoiding difficulty is rarely his plan.

In fact, Jesus warned his disciples of exactly the opposite: In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Difficulty doesn’t mean that we’re out of God’s plan. In fact, it might just mean that we’re smack dab in the middle of it.  

In my Bible reading this week, I was reminded of this principle through the story of Joseph. Although Joseph was destined for great things, his life took a 13 year detour through slavery, false accusations, and imprisonment. Still, as Joseph reminds his brothers years later at the height of his power, what they meant for evil when they sold him into slavery, God ultimately meant for good so that he could save the lives of many people. (Genesis 50:20)

Similarly, when a tree faces no pressure from the wind or its environment, it builds a pathetic root system.  However, when a tree is consistently buffeted by wind, its root system grows strong and healthy. Resistance is the tool needed to build a solid foundation.

So, friends, if you find yourself on a path of much resistance, take heart. As we keep in step with the Holy Spirit, our hard work and difficulties will not be in vain. On the surface we might not see much good happening, but underneath our root systems are developing an incredible foundation. Facing resistance is how we build endurance, and endurance is needed to finish the race set before us. 

Pause: Take a moment to be still and practice deep breathing with the following breath prayer from John 14:33.

Inhale: Take Heart

Exhale: I have overcome the World

Renew: Ponder, consider, or journal about a difficulty you’ve faced in your life that ultimately produced endurance. In what ways has the Lord sustained you through paths of much resistance? What were the results?

Next: As you find yourself in difficult moments this week, bring them before the Lord. Rather than letting the hardship lead to discouragement, let’s remember that these very circumstances may be helping us to become better rooted in our faith.