I've been thinking a lot about this recently. Life is full of hard things, and if you're a parent, there are even more. But is this really a bad thing? Sometimes we have a tendency to think of hard and bad as synonymous. I don't think they are. Doing hard things, working at them, learning from them, and overcoming them are what help to give our lives meaning. Without hard things in our lives to work at, our lives would feel emptier, shallow. We think we want a life of ease, but I'm not sure we really do.
Think about it. We are constantly looking for a new challenge. It is what drives people to climb higher mountains, run farther, make or do something better. It's why marketing campaigns such as, "The toughest job you'll ever love" works for the Peace Corps and "We do more by 9am than most people do all day" worked for the army. (Though not being an early morning person, I always doubted the wisdom of that campaign.) Overcoming challenges, especially when they are hard, gives us confidence.
Of course, that is for challenges which we seek out. We don't quite feel the same way about challenges which are thrust upon us. I think one of the keys to learning serenity and fearlessness is to start thinking about our hard challenges which are not of our own choosing the same way as the ones we seek out. We may not have chosen these challenges, but God saw fit to have us experience them, so He must have a plan to make something good out of it. The difference is what lesson we learn. When we seek out challenges for ourselves; when we set hard tasks to accomplish, it is usually so that we can prove something about ourselves. What we are capable of, what our abilities are. But when we decide to embrace the challenges handed to us, it is a chance to show what God is capable of. It tells us much more about God than about ourselves. It is a chance for God to work through us.
Parenting can be hard. There are many things which parenting requires that don't necessarily come naturally to human beings... patience, self-sacrifice, gentleness, self-control, to name just a few. We humans are selfish creatures. Parenting requires us to lay that aside and think primarily of someone else. It can be stretching. It can be hard. But what is hard for us is not hard for God. Nothing is too hard for God. I don't think we take seriously enough God's promise of sending His Holy Spirit to live in us; to work through us. We try to do too much on our own and in doing so become frustrated.
As I have mentioned before, I am working my way through the book of Isaiah with a group of girls (A. and her friends). I am quite sure that I am getting far more out of it by leading it. Yesterday we looked at chapter 30. Having read this far, there are some repeating themes. Israel being harassed by enemies and turning to everything but God for help being one of the major ones. We see this again in 30. In the midst of Israel fleeing unsuccessfully from her pursuers comes v. 15: "For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, 'In returning [repentance] and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.'" It goes on to say that while God was offering these things, Israel wasn't taking Him up on it.
How often do I do this? How often do I mentally try to run from my difficulties and not take God up on His offer of rest. All too often, I'm afraid. But that image of rest, peace, quietness, strength is very appealing. It is the type of thing that makes me take a deep breath and feel the tension leave my body. If God is truly in charge, and nothing is too hard for Him, and He can work through me despite myself, what really do I have to get anxious about. I may not always like what is happening, but I don't need to be anxious about it. It is the same as a parent stroking an anxious child's forehead and saying things are going to be alright, there is nothing the child needs to fear or do. The parent will handle it.
We may not always like or enjoy the hard thing. But the hard thing may be more worthwhile than the easy one in the long run. It may take longer to train my children to do household jobs, but in the end, they will have the satisfaction of being able to do the job well. It may not always be easy to train my children to participate in worship, but in the end I hope I will have taught them its importance. It may not always be easy to make the hard parenting decisions, but in the end my children can look back and see that we loved them enough to set boundaries. It may not always be easy having children at all. But in the end, the love I have for them and the growth they've brought to me are priceless.