But does it have to be this hard?

a woman looks up, questioning

Just because my hand is on you, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.

These are words I believe God spoke to me as I was raking leaves in my front yard several years ago. They didn’t come out of the blue: I was pouring out my heart about my disappointments and rejections, mainly to do with my writing and (lack of) publishing.

There were three things I took away from this message:

  1. My hand is on you.
  2. It’s not going to be easy.
  3. Things being easy is not the sign that my hand is on you.

Number 1 was powerful and moving to hear, and #2 wasn’t exactly encouraging, but #3 got at an assumption that hadn’t yet made its way to my consciousness: I’d been thinking that when God was with me, all paths would open up before me and I’d skate right through to success.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one with this assumption. It comes out in positive comments when things go your way, “God is really blessing you.” I heard it recently from a child of friends who, when thing after thing went wrong, asked, “Is God against us?” My complaint that day went along the lines of, “I thought this project had your blessing. You’ve energized and grown my writing and my faith so much through it, why isn’t it finding a home?”

Where did this assumption come from? Maybe a bit from Old Testament passages where God is begging the people to obey and they will have peace and rain and good harvests. Job’s friends certainly ascribe to the math of you are righteous = God’s blessing comes in the form of tangible success; therefore, lack of success = lack of righteousness.

Maybe a bit from my old fixed mindset: some things are easy for me, which means I’m good at them, I must be bad at the things that are difficult (or even, that something is difficult means that I’m not worthy).

And maybe a lot from the very simple human preference for things to be easy.

So those words that day changed me. Once that assumption came into the light, it was revealed as a sham, as something that was getting in my way.

These days, everything is hard. Getting published was a ton of work and risk and learning new things and tears and yelling at the computer, and there’s only more to learn and more to risk and even more work to do to make the book a success. This week is just really tough. Three days from now, it would have been my 22nd wedding anniversary, and as luck would have it, I have to be with my ex-husband that day; I’ve had a constantly simmering panic attack for over a week. I had a job set-back, so now I’ve got some employment decisions to make that could impact my availability for making the picture book a success. And I’m scared and grieving for my adopted country that is so divided, and so in love with guns.

But at least I know that none of these are signs that God is not with me, that God isn’t blessing me.

Just because my hand is on you, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.

I said that to a friend about her situation on Sunday, and, as it often goes, I needed to be reminded of it, myself. Maybe you do, too. Let’s go forth and do hard things, secure in the knowledge that Jesus’ promise below is given in the present tense: I am with you.

“I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:20 NLT)

2 thoughts on “But does it have to be this hard?

  1. It is easy to think God abandoned you when things get tough. When we pray for help, why does it seem to get harder? I always think of the poem “Footsteps” in times such as these. The final words help make sense of it all.

  2. I appreciate your honesty here, Natalie. And agree – easy doesn’t equal God, especially if we look at the biblical examples! Most often, the opposite is true. Praying we both find ways to hold onto the hand that holds us beneath both the easy and hard.

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