Why Is This So Hard?!

hard

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Isn’t that the question we all ask ourselves in our  Thin Within journey?  Whether we’ve been involved for one week — one month — one year — or even longer . . .

“Why is this so hard?”

“This is just too difficult for me.”

“I want to quit!”

“Is all this struggle really worth it?”

One reason it can be so difficult –>  We make it that way!  Plain and simple — we are stubborn!  We don’t want to let go of what we’ve known and enjoyed for so long.  Whatever holds us has become our “best friend”.  Who wants to say good-bye to their “best friend?”  When our “best friend” is food, we go to the “frig” when we’re lonely, bored, angry, sad, frustrated, or without answers in difficult situations.  Our “best friend” hugs us and says, “I can make you feel better.  I can relieve the stress.  I can give you pleasure in the midst of your mess. I’ll give you a break from all this!”  The relief is a temporary break from what will still be there after we take our last swallow.  Our “friend” is very deceitful.  But we love our “best friend’ anyway, because SOME relief is better that NO relief.  So — we remain stubborn and cling to our “best friend” like it’s the only friend we have.

This rebellion is something we must confess to our Father and repent of — plain and simple.  We’ve done no less than replace our TRUE “Best Friend” — God Himself — with a powerless substitute.

So — let’s say we do go to God in confession and repentance.  We bare our souls to Him and repent of our “idol.”  We know deep in our hearts that we REALLY want to “kick this thing.”  The question  still remains:

“Why is this so hard!”

Even when we are totally on board with God and desire to obey Him fully, the process can be full of ups and downs, great victories, and shameful failures.  Why?  If God sees we are “really trying and really want to get this right,” why doesn’t He bless us with a wonderful miracle and take the struggle away permanently?

Christ Himself could relate with us.  He asked God the very same thing.  He knew the road to “doing the right thing” was going to be paved with unbelievable pain and suffering.  And He asked God to bring salvation to all men in another way:

“My Father, if it is possible,

may this cup be taken from me.

Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Matthew 26:39

Why did God make Christ suffer to bring the final glory?  Why did that have to be part of the process?  And why is our road to glory paved with suffering at times?

Suffering breaks the power of sin.  1 Peter 4:1 says, “. . .he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”  When we see the struggle that sin causes us as we move to repent of it, we realize it’s power.  It DOES have power, if we let it!  But Christ’s death broke that power downand any power we give to sin is of our own doing.  To tell you the truth — the struggle makes me angry!  It doesn’t make me angry at God, or Satan, or even me.  It makes me angry at sin’s power.  It makes me SO angry in the struggle — that I want to do away with sin’s power over me for good!  I want to “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”  (Philippian 3:12)  I get stubborn in a new direction and want to “be done with this thing” once and for all!  Suffering can cause that kind of stubbornness and lead to final victory.

Suffering is a means of God showing His glory.  God could do an instantaneous miracle.  He has the power!  And — sometimes He does choose to do that.  But more often, He works slowly and shows Himself in the midst of suffering — to be faithful and true to His promises.  This is what builds our faith and confidence in Him — the experiences of seeing God work in the ordinary circumstances of life.  This is where He meets us and shows His greatest love.  Sure — He could perform mighty miracles everyday, but would we not become so de-sensitized to Him that He would become nothing to us?  In time, I really think this would be our reaction.  Look at the Israelites and all the miracles God did on their behalf.  They still found plenty of time to grumble and complain.  Very little character growth took place!  Suffering is the stage on which God’s glory is displayed in the everyday lives of His people.

Suffering is where God does so much to transform us!  An overnight miracle would make no permanent character changes in us.  It would just make us greedy for more miracles.  We would soon rely and even expect the next miracle — taking Him for granted and loving Him less and less.  He would stop being our loving Father and start being our “magic genie.”  Where is the love in that?  Our God would not tolerate it!  He knows a “slow trickle” of grace is the best way for us to grow and transform into the person He has planned for us to be.  He also knows we do our “best growing” little by little in the ebbs and flows of everyday life.  Those seasons of suffering are bringing permanent transformation.  No suffering — very little transformation.

Suffering is God’s workbench.

Having said all this — I still don’t like suffering any more than the next person. Fighting to say “no” to the rest of the beef enchiladas on my plate because I’m already at a “5” — and denying myself chocolate cake with ice cream when everyone else is having a beautiful plate of it — is not my idea of a great night!  But —

  • because I can experience a triumph when I know sin lost the battle this time.
  • because I can give God glory for — once again — doing something I could not do without Him — and tell others about it, too.
  • because I can grow just a little bit more each time I say “no” —  knowing that self-control gives birth to perseverance and perseverance gives birth to godliness.

I can handle the struggle!  God is at work!

“. . .let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,

and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame,

and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1b-2

We can endure the struggle, because there is the promised joy ahead.  We can even take joy IN the process, knowing that God knows what He’s doing in us.  It may be hard — but it is ALWAYS good!

How About You?

Do you experience moments where you think the suffering is not worth the goal?  Does the power of sin makes you stubborn enough to desire to suffer in order to be “done with sin?”  In what ways has God shaped and grown your character through the suffering? Are you willing and anxious to give testimony before others of how God has graciously helped you in your Thin Within journey?

 

 

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18 Responses to Why Is This So Hard?!

  1. Jenn March 17, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    Great post, thank you so much! I specifically liked what you said about idols. Author Ken Sande says that idolatry is what we do when we are not fully satisfied with God. He goes on to say that “if you want to squeeze the idols out of your heart and leave no room for them to return, make it your top priority to aggresively pursue an all-consuming worship for the living God. Ask Him to teach you how to love, fear, and trust Him more than anything in this world”. I often ask the questions that you did and I pray daily that I would find all my fulfillment in Him.

    • Heidi Bylsma March 28, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

      Hi, Jenn. Great reference to the PeaceMakers material. Thanks for bringing that up. AMEN!

  2. Pamela March 17, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    Excellent post, Karen; hard because that old hardness of our hearts is so hard and as John Calvin said, “We are idol factories/makers.” We were created to worship God, but in unbelief that, so easily entangles us, and pride fulness, ungrateful ness, stubbornness and rebelliousness of heart – we choose to listen to lies of Satan, the flesh, and the world, not the Truth in God’s Word to refresh and renew us. We settle for mud pies as C.S. Lewis says when we could have the BEST in our Eternal Love, Christ Jesus. We must be told in His Word to be thankful in all things – to be thankful to our Sovereign God for the opportunity to identify with the suffering of Christ Jesus, learning obedience from suffering, for His gift of Godly repentance and His forgiveness – His amazing, sufficient grace, so we can confess our sins in His fulness of grace and Truth we have in Christ Jesus – to apply in His Divine resurrecting power of God the Holy Spirit, to become transformed into Christ likeness, yes, all to His glory!! What miracles taking place!!! So thankful for afflictions, for trials, and ‘difficult for man’ things He Sovereignly brings into my life to draw me to the foot of the cross, to Christ Jesus, thankful to be able to surrender – die to self to live and breathe and have life eternal, in Him!! So thankful to be fitting into our Bridal gowns of righteousness in Him, awaiting His return for us, His beloved Bride!!! Rejoicing, praising, thanking Him for ‘hard things’, so He lives in me to dark, lost world, who are needing the Gospel, needing Jesus!!! It truly is all about God and not about me!!! Thank You, LORD, for Your jealous ness for me and breaking up all idols and prideful ness, dethroning ‘SELF’ in my heart!! May You be glorified in ALL!!!!

  3. Pamela March 17, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    Just wanted to share another reason, Karen, I am so thankful for afflictions and suffering…suffering also involved with mortification of sin with dying to self to live in Christ, as well as, wanted to share a great quote (see below) from Luther in a book written by John Piper:

    “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” (Psalm 119:71)

    Here is how Luther described this —

    “As soon as God’s Word becomes known through you, the devil will afflict you, will make a real theologian of you, and will teach you by his temptations to seek and to love God’s Word. For I myself … I owe my [opponents] many thanks for so beating, pressing, and frightening me through the devil’s raging that they have turned me into a fairly good theologian, driving me to a goal I should never have reached.” (John Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, pp.103f).

    Again, thank you for your post talking about repentance and confession, too – so important! This truly this is a daily walk of repentance and confession! Thank You, LORD, for Your grace and Truth, fullness we have in You, Christ Jesus (John 1:14) and may we not grieve and quench You, God the Holy Spirit, with disobedience, but be compelled and constrained by the love of You, Christ Jesus!! Help us to hate the sin of gluttony and disordered eating – to hate sin like You do and do battle Your way against sin, appropriating every spiritual blessing we have in You, Christ Jesus, and God, the Holy Spirit, with victory in You and glory unto You!!

    Please do not enter me into drawing, Heidi; open the generous opportunity of receiving the gifts to others! Thanks:))

    Jenna, thank you for sharing the great quote and teaching from Ken Sande, Peacemakers, on idols with his stating the importance of replacing the idols of our hearts with our worship, satisfaction, and delight in God and Christ Jesus, we were created to worship:)). Wonderful encouragement and reminder; thank you!

  4. Dawn March 17, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

    What a powerful post. Well said. I really really needed to hear that today.
    For me…food was not only a best friend but my addiction. One still needs to eat so taking the addiction away and removing it is not an option.
    I have been reminded today this is not something I have to battle alone and feel powerless. Where I am weak HE is strong.
    About a year ago I went thru a very difficult time with some health issues. Sometimes on the way home from work I would cry all the way home. Just last night I was thinking about that time and wondered how I got thru it. I really don’t remember. It was as if I was being carried thru the whole ordeal and the memory of the suffering was gone. I know I could have not come to where I am now if it were not for the power of Jesus. I was too broken down….I had nothing left in me. Sometimes the surrender is the hardest part….but surrender we must or it will consume and destroy us.
    Lord I am weak against this monster…but I know you are strong.

    • Heidi Bylsma March 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

      Hi, Dawn. Amen. Our God is strong and shows up in our weakness. Barb Raveling points out that while we may not be able to exclude food from our lives like the alcoholic, we CAN make our boundaries “lines in the sand.” We can eliminate ALL food outside of the boundaries God has given us. I think that has helped me a lot to view it as something I can be “black and white” about…in a good way. I CAN be free from addictive behavior by seeing eating within boundaries as good, pleasing, needful. Eating outside of the boundaries is sin, my wickedness demonstrated, reprehensibly denying God the right to be God in my life! Outside of my boundaries, I am bowing to self or food as an idol. There is NO winking at that…NONE. Taking this hard line stand on it, like an alcoholic has to with alcohol, has been helpful. I don’t know if it could be for you, but thought I would share just in case.

  5. Cathy Maher March 17, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    Karen,
    Excellent article for our Blog. I always enjoy the tough stuff, right to the point. If His word is like a two edged sword then its gonna stick sometimes…and hurt.
    One of my all time favorite verses is “. . .let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,

    and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

    Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,

    who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame,

    and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

    There is a lot for to do! Throw off sin, Fix our eyes, Run the race!
    That encourages me even more after the things I sensed God was showing me this past week about getting serious about this and obeying.

    Thank you for the work you put into writing it and also for your dedication to be an encourager on our class pages. God bless you!
    Cathy

    • Heidi Bylsma March 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

      So true, Cathy. And SCORNING the SHAME! That has been one of the biggest moves for me. I will NOT let shame define me. I will SCORN it. 🙂

  6. Susan Thompson March 17, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

    Thank you for the heartfelt article. I also have another reason. It is easier to give in and eat than to pray, to fight, and to NOT give in.

    One of my favorite sayings is: Losing weight is hard. Being fat is hard. Choose your hard.

    Thanks again!

    • Heidi Bylsma March 28, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

      So true, Susan. And renewing the mind is hardest still! But we have to fight that battle! We HAVE to!

  7. Gillian Klassen March 18, 2014 at 6:47 am #

    Hi Karen
    I was about to go somewhere else on the net, and had the TW blog open and the title caught my attention…God knew I needed to hear what you had to say….yes I feel I have struggled…yes I can be stubborn…but Yes our God is so good to me…his mercies are new every morning…he is making me grow through my TW journey. Just yesterday…I am dealing with some decisions I have to make soon about a career change and perhaps going back to college for a few courses. I am a graduate of 2 colleges and thinking about doing homework again is getting my back up, because I will still be working pt and taking care of my family. I know I am capable of doing it, but God I need direction…it relates to eating too…I want to live within God’s boundaries of eating, but I know I “stress” eat, and I know I need to leave it with God because he understands what I am going through. I just need to pray about this and I ask others for their prayers as I make these decisions in the next week. Thank you for your words…God knew I needed them today. Gill

    • Heidi Bylsma March 28, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

      How are you doing, Gillian? 🙂

  8. Michelle March 18, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    Thanks for this great post! God knew I needed this as it was perfectly timed!

    I never thought to think of food & God as my friend. It was clearly shown to me which is obviously the better one!

    I am stubborn! I never realized I didnt want to let go of the friend food.

    It’s such a simple concept but not always easy to break old bad habits.

    I’m glad I’m aware of how the process works. Waiting & setting boundaries.

    Most importantly learning to run to God for help & realizing I cant do it myself.

    I LOVE the explanation on why this is a slow process. It’s sooo true & so glad to realize it’s ok it’s a process for a reason!

    I’m grateful to be informed that my suffering is good for a reason!

    I can handle the struggle & God is at work! What an awesome perspective I’m excited to adopt!!!!

    I’ve really felt like I cant do this lately & wondering if I will ever be able to do anything.

    I feel in my heart and soul God wants me to take care of myself & get to a healthy weight.

    This post was sooo encouraging! Thank you for sharing! I started fresh this morning thanking God for another chance, another day do try again!!! I can take one day at a time. I can handle the struggle! I can wait! I can suffer!

    The good news…God is at work in me!!!!

    Yay!!! Thank you, thank you!!!!

    • Heidi Bylsma March 28, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

      Amen, Michelle. God continues to be at work in you. He is doing a new new thing! 🙂

  9. Carrie March 18, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    Yes this is hard! But so much easier than counting points, calories, trolling the web for the latest miracle cure or working out 90 minutes a day! And all of the effort and suffering brings us closer to The Lord. What could be better than that! Sometimes I look back over the past year – since I really committed to following His boundaries – and I am speechless and filled with such amazement and joy at the healing that He has provided me. Friends, this journey is worth it. I am still a work in progress. I have at times a willing spirit but at other times a rebellious heart. I pray every day that He will create a clean heart in me. And He has changed my heart and mind so much for the better. Press on and you will experience the joy, peace and freedom on His path.

    • Heidi Bylsma March 28, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

      Carrie…you bless my socks off. 🙂 Love you.

  10. Haley March 23, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    Wow! I needed this today! I saw it the other day, but was tied up and couldn’t read it. I have been struggling so much….I had all but given up and went back to WW. I have told myself, “This is too hard”. When I read the statement that said it was hard because of our stubborness, it hit me like a ton of bricks. The Lord spoke to me through this post! Thank you Karen!

    • Heidi Bylsma March 28, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

      Hang in there, Haley! 🙂

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