Strength in the Struggle

I’ve been called, by those who know me best and care for me most:

pitbullA pit bull (“but in a good way”)

A tornado (Um… thanks???)

Stubborn, determined… bull-headed

A bull in a china cabinet

(Okay, so maybe hubby wasn’t complimenting me on this one. In fact, I think he was a bit irritated. Ok, a lot irritated.)

And  yes, there are times when my bull-headed, get-‘er-done attitude creates havoc, but there are other times when I’m thankful. Because there are numerous things in life that require a fair amount of bull-headedness.

Would it surprise you to hear my bullheadedness isn’t new? That hints of it (and at times, explosions of it), can be seen throughout my history?

Where did it come from?

Because I believe God is my sovereign Creator, I also believe a chunk of this was crafted in me when He “knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139). But another chunk, that ever-growing chunk, is the product of struggling. Of encountering an obstacle, choosing to face it head on, and choosing to stay in the fight until the fight is over.

That is a choice each one of us have, each and every day.

When our job becomes stressful, our boss demanding, we have the choice to stay engaged and proactive and to rise above… Or to withdraw, either through a written resignation or an emotional one.

When our marriage feels hopeless, we have the choice to stay in the fight–not with our emotional retreatspouse, but in the fight for our spouse… Or resign, either through divorce or emotional retreat.

Every time we choose to fight, a part of us and that for which we are fighting for grows stronger.

Similarly, every time we choose to cave, a part of us and that for which we are fighting for grows weaker. And it becomes easier to disengage, to walk away… to quit.

I have a friend whose daughter has been battling an insanely difficult and often debilitating illness for a long time. This fall, she went to college. Away from home and the safety of her parents’ house and the close proximity of her primary care physician.

And she struggled. With illness that bombarded her weakened immune system. With discouragement that tore at her very core. With homesickness and frustration and the ever-pressing decision: Should I press on, even if I never make it or fail in the end; or should I retreat emotionally, mentally, and physically?

Her parents watched her struggle with this decision, prayed for God’s clear guidance, and I’m pretty sure, had it been their choice, they would’ve whisked her home, safe and sound.

But this young woman persevered, and this December, she successfully completed her first semester of college.

And yet, this completion was much more than a task checked off, for so much more happened in the journey.

A part of her was strengthened.

And regardless of what career she chooses, or even if she signs up for another semester, that strength will remain, equipping her for her next struggle.

Please hear me, I am not saying everyone with illness should always push through. Sometimes, we must drop a few balls and slow things down, to give ourselves time to rest, heal, and manage effectively those things that remain. (You can read my thoughts on that here.)

What I’m saying is, we should be quick to pray, quick to persevere, and slow to quit. And victoryfor those of us who are parents with breaking hearts as we watch our kids struggle this Christmas… hold on, because the triumph is coming! And when God carries your kiddo over the finish line, they’ll be stronger for it!

Additional posts and resources you might find helpful:

Are We Overstressing Our Teens?

Are You Stuck in Haran

Knowing When to Quit

How Big is Your God

Pummeled by the Waves

Stronger Still by Edna Ellison

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Think back to some of your greatest struggles.

What did God teach you through those?

How are you stronger today because of those struggles?

What are you facing now?

How might your attitude during the struggle affect your inner-growth after ? And what specifically might God be wanting to strengthen in you?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.


  1. Great post, Jennifer!
    I especially liked this line: “…we should be quick to pray, quick to persevere, and slow to quit.” Praying (for more grace) is the key because it’s God’s strength that enables us to carry on.

    1. Amen! And your comment is all the more impactful coming from you, someone who is living it. Your strength, perseverance, and eternal focus continually amazes me! Blessings to you!

  2. Thanks for the timely reminder. I’m in the process of self-publishing a novella, and scared silly. I love my publisher, but they prefer longer manuscripts. I’m forced to meet head on my fear of failure and of being wrong. When I started this project I sensed deeply this was about me turning my life over to God. This is incredibly difficult. I know how badly things can go wrong. I’m struggling to face the truth that worst case scenario is a not a permanent state in my life, but even if it is, God is near, and He is all that matters.

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