This week’s blog is by Nicole Unice and was originally posted on Read the Arc.
How are you?
If you’re like me, when asked this at the grocery store or by a friend you haven’t seen in a while, your response is usually: “Fine!” After all, we can tick off our big blessings—a roof over our heads, shoes on our feet, dinner on the table. “Fine” almost feels like a required answer, especially for the Christian. After all, since God has done so much for us, shouldn’t our leading perspective be gratitude and shouldn’t we be fine?
Well, yes, but also no.
Fine is a terrible little word. It’s neither good nor bad. It doesn’t convey excitement or despair. You might as well sigh it out, “I’m fiiiinnnne.” Fine is a tired, shouldn’t-this-be-different kind of word. Fine is a good word to use when you are kind of frustrated, kind of bored, kind of okay, kind of stuck. Fine is what you say when you wonder if things are supposed to feel as hard as they do even in your so-called “good life.”
It’s funny how it’s the little struggles that often reveal the most about what’s really underneath the surface of all this “fine” we claim to be. The other day I was avoiding folding my laundry by finding important things to do, and by “important,” I mean scrolling through my Instagram feed like it held the secret to life. Between the puppy pics and the coffee/Bible/#blessed Christian “reality,” I came across this:
I dropped a sock from my laundry, and then leaned over to pick up the sock and somehow dropped all my laundry on the floor, and if that’s not a picture of my life, I don’t know what is. #thestruggleisreal
Clever lines like thesehave become cultural signs of our era, giving a glimpse behind the shiny veneer of people’s everyday lives. Many are followed by the tagline #thestruggleisreal. Search this hashtag and you’ll find the struggle runs over three million posts deep, from complaints about the traffic to grievances at the workplace, from annoying habits to annoying people, from struggles with midterms to mishaps with pets.
When we use the phrase “the struggle is real,” we are acknowledging the chasm that often exists between what we thinkand how we really feel. Our minds tell us that life will inevitably be difficult and confusing, at least sometimes. But when we experience the difficult and confusing, we feelas if something must be terribly wrong. It doesn’t matter that those difficult and confusing moments feel minor in the grand scheme of life—because those little struggles dig into a deeper place in our souls. Those little struggles lead us to wonder if we really have what it takes to make it in our lives, or if maybe we missed an important class somewhere about how to actually be a joyful and free human being.
I believe that God has written a storyline for each one of us that integrates all of the random and frustrating and confusing struggles—both little and big—into a life of wholeness and purpose. I believe in the power of God to change our lives and to untangle the confused plotlines in the deepest part of us. I know it because I’m watching Him do this in my own life. I know it because God promises to change us in ways that are much deeper than simply acknowledging our need of a Savior while continuing to remain trapped in the same old patterns.
I’ve met men and women in every phase of faith who are new to the idea of transformation, who are still caught up in their old stories and whose actions and choices reflect their old way of thinking. I’ve met people who love the idea of God’s love but haven’t actually known Jesus in their lives. Without even being aware of it, all of these people are stuck, faking transformation instead of actually experiencing it. But the real God is far too big, too loving, and too powerful to remain confined by our predetermined boundaries. And it’s in the very places where the struggle is real in your life—the striving, the worry, the restlessness, the discouragement—that you can discover the truth of who He is and the story He wants to write in your life.
God’s Word is clear that when we choose to follow Him, we should expect to be changed—not a little, but entirely transformed. God’s kind of change doesn’t make our lives perfect—but it does make them expansive. He offers us lives of freedom and space rather than confinement and striving. He who can calm the storm, raise the dead, and mystify the wisdom of the world still chooses to enter into individual lives with such humility that we often don’t know it’s happened until we look back and realize He’s been there for a long time.
The struggles we face are not just real, they are also good. Those hindrances and annoyances and circumstances aren’t obstacles keeping us from freedom, they are the very substances God uses to form our character and move us toward freedom. The struggles in our lives that leave us feeling stuck, restless, or confused become the trenches where we work out the important stuff of life—where we learn how to overcome everyday frustrations, messy relationships, and our lack of joy and purpose—to become people of honesty, depth, and strength.
Yes, the struggle is real. But in the midst of the hard, heavy, and confusing, we have a God who has provided a way for us to not only understand life, but to grow stronger and smarter through it all.
Excerpt from The Struggle is Real by Nicole Unice
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a day where everything that could go wrong does go wrong—you lock your keys in the car while it’s running, lose control with your kids, make a mistake at the office that results in hours more work. And just when you think not one more thing could possibly happen . . . well, fill in the blank.
The struggle is real, friends. It may not be major stuff. Lives are not on the line here. But it makes us feel awful . . . and then we feel guilty for stressing when other people have “real” problems that are so much more serious.
Yet the fact remains: We live in a world that often feels harder than we think it should be. And so it can be easy to believe the stories we tell ourselves—that we’re doing it wrong, that we’ll be stuck in this place forever, that God doesn’t love us. We struggle to practice gratitude, to make godly choices, and to live our daily lives with confidence and contentment. So what can we do?
Join popular Bible teacher and counselor Nicole Unice to discover whythe struggle is real . . . and what to do about it. Nicole offers practical tools to help you navigate the daily ups and downs, and ways to rewrite your struggle into a new, God-centered life story. The Struggle Is Real is an invitation to take the hard, hurtful, and confusing moments and turn them into opportunities to grow in wisdom, strength, and joy.