The Struggle With Struggle

Photo courtesy of Dave Dunford

“I can’t do it.  It’s too hard!”

“Yes you can do it.  You are a big boy.  You can get your pajamas on all by yourself.”

I could hear the cries reverberating down the hallway as my husband worked with our 3-year-old in an effort to help our son gain greater independence.

“I wish he didn’t have to cry.  I wish Daddy would just help him.  He needs him.”

I looked into the eyes of my 6 and 8 year olds as they looked back at me with pleading eyes.  Eyes that begged the question ‘Will you go rescue him’.

Struggles seem to last an eternity.  

The 2 older boys and I waited until we heard silence.  It couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes.  To us, it felt like an hour.  We wanted to race down the hall, hug that sweet boy, put his clothes on for him and make it all better.  But what would that accomplish in the end?  Physically he could do it, he just needed someone to believe in him enough to demand he do it himself.  The only way for him to learn was to struggle through it himself.

When the crying stopped, he met us in the hallway.  With red eyes and tear-streaked cheeks, one corner of his mouth turned up forming a smile that said,  “I did it all by myself!”  The sparkle shone through those teary blue eyes telling me everything I already knew.

The struggle had a purpose.

As we all rejoiced and celebrated with him, my husband took the other boys aside to explain what had to be done.  “Zachary, I did the same thing when you were his age.  He can do this.  He just needs to know he can do it, and he needs to practice it.  We can’t always do it for him.”

As a mother I naturally wanted to swoop to the rescue.  God gently restrained me as I watched my husband lead our son to victory.  He didn’t abandon him.  He was right by his side the entire time.  Encouraging, cheering, and coaching.

God never abandons us in our struggles.

He is there with us every step of the way.  The road may feel long and lonely at times, but we don’t walk the road alone.

Through His creation, God gives us a vivid picture of just how critical the struggle is.

A young tree newly planted needs the wind to blow to develop strong roots.  The more exposure to winds, the greater the chance for a strong tree.  Trees that are staked and protected from the storms develop weaker root systems and have a shortened life span.

When a caterpillar sheds its final layer and wraps itself in a chrysalis, it waits while it is being formed into a butterfly.  When ready to emerge, it is crucial for the butterfly to struggle its way out of the chrysalis.  Without the struggle, the butterfly’s wings will not gain strength, and it may never be able to fly.

Struggle is hard.  Struggle is painful.  Struggle is lonely.

When we cling to God in our struggles, we are strengthened in the process.

The struggle develops strength.  The struggle develops character.  The struggle develops beauty.  The struggle develops perseverance.

When I was a bystander to my son’s struggle for independence, I struggled with the struggle.  I wanted to rescue him.  I wanted to make everything right in his little world.  Because I love him.  On the other side of that struggle, I watched in the following weeks as he became a different little guy.  For once, he didn’t feel like a baby anymore.  He was capable like his brothers.  He could handle his clothes just fine.  He was confident, and tantrums became a thing of the past.  The struggle provided the path for a breakthrough to occur in his development.  And it was a beautiful thing to watch.

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