“We are designed for struggle.” In a recent interview on NBC for the winter Olympics, retired figure skater, Olympic gold medalist, and broadcaster Scott Hamilton spoke these words. Scott has had to endure many things in life, including beating cancer four times. When asked how his struggles in life had impacted him, this is how he responded, “We are better off and more in touch with who we are as individuals in the struggle, much more than we are in our good fortunes. There is always something on the other side of struggle if we choose for that to happen. You have to treat the horrible things in life with the same respect and dignity that you handle the best things that happen in life.” What an incredible perspective changer this was for me. If I am honest, I would say that my view of struggle is not often one of optimism. The human side of me deeply sighs at the thought that struggle produces anything productive in me. The last thing I want to do is struggle. But as Scott alludes to in his words, there is something certainly powerful about what happens when we experience struggle.
Struggle leaves us with a choice, and I think we can either approach struggle with purpose or approach struggle with passivity. The passivity route has been my story for a large portion of my life. It always seemed like the most rational choice in that moment, and it always extinguished the will to try. I often became stuck in the struggle and lacked the desire or fight to move forward. So I did nothing with it. More recently, by observing those who have struggled well and asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand the purpose in suffering, I have begun to see a new hope in these seasons. Suffering is awful. I am not minimizing the devastation of pain. However, even though I still do it poorly, I have learned that growth comes in the fight. Growth comes in choosing to find purpose in the struggle. As Scott said so well, struggle not only teaches you about yourself, it teaches you reliance upon God, and ultimately reveals your deep need for God. Suffering has a natural way of producing a better version of ourselves. A humbler version. A version of ourselves that seeks to find God as our strength.