My parents live on a beautiful acreage in Alberta. My dad and I love to do projects around the acreage but it never fails that the projects are usually much harder than I anticipated going into it.

We once decided to build a deck. We envisioned a place of peace where we could sit and enjoy the quiet beautiful space, in the trees, overlooking the best view on the acreage. Dad got the supplies, made the plans, and I showed up eager to get to work.

He explained the initial plans to me: “shovel 8 trenches as part of the foundation”. Shoveling, measuring, and moving earth, I felt the effort in my whole body. It was rewarding, even though it was hard. After those 8 trenches, I was tired and sweaty, proud of myself for how well I was doing. We were almost done… or so I thought.

“8 more trenches to go!”, dad said. 8 more?!? What was he thinking?! I started to get a little testy. I was no longer having fun. I started to lose sight of the goal, but I begrudgingly continued to work.

The next day, I began to realize the brilliance of my dad’s plan. This deck needed to withstand the harsh weather - the freezing ground, the storms in the summers, the rain, snow and everything in between. My dad knew what was needed to build something that would last, something solid. I had been prepared for one level of difficulty, but my dad had in mind something that was much deeper, stronger, and harder than I originally thought.

Over the years, I have learned that hard is not always bad. These three things have helped me submit to my Father’s plans, and I hope they’ll help you too.

Keep your eye on the goal. What is the goal? The goal is formation into the image of Jesus and his likeness (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18). The goal is not the mission or happiness. It is to be transformed into the image of Jesus. When we are transformed into the image of Jesus, We are concerned with the things on his heart We participate with him in his mission We reflect who he is to the world We grow in desire for and commitment to obedience to him The fruits of the Spirit begin to show up in the most surprising places

There can be joy in the struggle because God is present. How can James say “rejoice always” (James 1) or Paul say “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” in his list of incredible hardship in 2 Corinthians 6? Because God is present in the struggle.

Think about your moments of grief, unfulfilled desires, or dark nights of the soul. Those areas of our lives where you long to see God come through, or God to provide in a certain way, or for a hard season to come to an end. God is doing a beautiful work in the midst of that struggle.

Cultivate dependence and prepare. Consolation and desolation often go hand in hand, but neither last forever. Sometimes there are even seasons of just hard, or seasons of just freedom, lightness and joy.

How do we navigate the seasons in our life from seemingly one extreme to the other? Or when something is required of us that we do not feel like doing in the moment, and yet we know God is leading us there? By leaning into our Father’s loving arms, knowing that he will carry us through no matter what comes our way. He will always provide us with what we need – strength and perseverance but, more importantly, himself.

Father, I thank you because your presence is always with me. Help me to see that you are always working in my life, making me more like Jesus. Redeem me in my struggles, Lord. Give me peace in the middle of my difficult moments. Help me to not lose sight of you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Today’s Challenge: Cultivate rhythms in your life that grow depth in your relationship with God and with others so that you have anchors in both consolation and desolation. Rhythms of deep, authentic community; intentional and consistent gratitude, praise and worship; fasting, sacrificial giving, silence and solitude; prayer, confession, biblical meditation and memorization; taking steps of faith; life-giving fun.

Roxanne has been serving with Athletes in Action since 2003. To learn more about her ministry, click here.

Tags: Godly Influences James 1 Joy Perseverance eternal perspective