Perry Emerick – Mesa Campus Pastor
Recently many of us at Central and around the valley mourned and continue to mourn the loss of our friend pastor Hal Shrader, who Cal wrote about here. A friend of Hal’s, and of many of us as well, spoke at the service of a time he was living with the Shrader family and of a specific incident he remembered about Hal interacting with one of his daughters. She was having a hard time with her math homework and was complaining to her dad that “it was hard!” Hal’s response to her with all tenderness was “hard things are hard.”
That phrase has wrung in my ears ever since then. No earth shattering truth there, no unearthed secret, just a simple and profound reality…Hard Things Are Hard. Your first reaction may be, “but of course they are!” but that likely betrays your own sense of disbelief and frustration when you face something hard…something that for whatever reason you thought should have been easy, or at least easier than it is. We want things to be easy, of course, because easy is…well…easy, and we like easy because there is no real effort required. When it gets hard, we think we shouldn’t do it. We tend to want to give up, move on to something easier. Some folks just expect that when it comes to learning something new, they are just going to be naturally good at it, and when they are not…which is normal…they quit, without every really trying. But the truth is, if we push through the hard and work at it, often the success is not just in the learned ability, but in the gained strength of persevering and pushing through hard things.
Yet, it’s one thing to talk about the difficulty of math, it’s another thing to talk about the difficulties of life. We can often justify the benefits of learning hard skills, but no one relishes or seeks out the opportunity to face hard issues in life. We want to avoid those things. In some ways I think we believe that faithfulness results in ease, or at least an easier go of things. But that is not what Jesus told us. In fact he foretold trouble for all his followers:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. – John 16:33
John 15 & 16 speak of hard things that followers of Christ will experience, and yet in these verses, and this one in particular, Jesus sandwiches that hard truth with hope. His desire for us is to experience peace, not as a substitute for hard, but in the midst of hard, reminding us that our hardship is not the end of the story. God’s upper story continues on, at work to impact those who would put their trust in him, and often in those who don’t…yet. He also reminds us of the end of the story…that he has overcome the world; that our mourning will be turned to laughing one day. For now, ours is to persevere. As William Wilberforce once said,
Our motto must continue to be perseverance. And ultimately I trust the Almighty will crown our efforts with success.
Our hope is in Christ, and the anticipation of a crown, not in this life, but in the life to come. Our efforts to persevere will not only benefit us in the short term, but they may ultimately allow those watching us to one day receive a crown of their own. Hard things are hard…but the story is not over!