It’s hard work improving. It’s not always easy becoming the person we were created to be.
Maybe I’m no worse than most, but I’m the kind of person who generally prefers to take the easy or fun way when it comes to any obstacle or challenge. I’d rather ride the chair lift with my bike or skis than ‘earn my turns’ through a grueling uphill. I’ll run, but only if I’m dribbling a soccer- or basketball. Give me the fun of rock climbing over the taxing ascent of mountain climbing any day. If I can avoid the hard work and still get the fun, I’ll do that all day, every day.
And that’s true for me emotionally, relationally, and spiritually too—as I constantly push back against the difficulty of development, the inconvenience of improvement.
I was thinking about that part of my personality again last night—as I was dying after mile two of five on a long, arduous climb on my mountain bike. I don’t like to work hard. I have no patience for things not going well or simply. I love it when life is easy and fun. It’s best when everything just works out nicely and neatly.
But, of course, that’s rarely how life goes—and certainly not the way progress and maturity work. Growth is a grind. It takes effort and intentionality, humility and hope, perseverance and patience. And usually (and unfortunately) it takes sacrifice and surrender. If we want to be a better person, spouse, friend, and neighbor, it’s going to take effort. If we want to grow in our faith and follow Jesus more closely, it’s going to be costly and challenging.
But, of course, the hard work is worth it.
Despite the fact that I despise the difficulty and detest the needed dedication, the grueling grind is always worth the effort. You get to that peak, take in the beauty of God’s creation, and then get to soar down the mountain in sheer delight. You agonize over those papers and cram for those exams, but you one-day find yourself walking across that stage to receive your diploma. You suffer through the hard work of breaking that habit, fixing that relationship, or starting that new practice, only to realize that the end result was absolutely worth the work.
And even when the finished product isn’t perfect or great or even good, I almost always find that the arduous journey was still worthwhile—that something profound and transformational happened through the process, not just in the product.
So, even though it’s easier to remain stagnant, not change, and never push ourselves to be better, let’s remain committed to the lifelong process of growth and discipleship—of mastering the art of living and becoming more in-tune with the ways of God’s kingdom. Let’s be willing to do whatever hard things are required of us to grow and mature in faith.
Paul tells the Philippian church that “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.” That sounds like pretty good advice to me. So, let’s be intentional about focusing on the ways of God and disciplined to do the hard work it will takes to become, even more, the people of God.