Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Thankful for Hardships?

“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Holocaust survivor, Man’s Search for Meaning


To live is to face difficulties. We don’t like them. We complain about them. But, when we face them, they make us stronger. They shape us. They form us. They make life matter.

During the Thanksgiving season I started thinking about the difficult things in my life and wondering if the bounds of my thankfulness could extend to them. What I found surprised me. Without difficulties, there is no thankfulness. Movies without conflict are boring. Lives without hardship are thankless.

Here are a few roles that hardship plays in my life:

Hardship is my teacher. It makes me wiser.

For two years in high school I took Spanish. My teacher, Señora Sears, was wonderful and I received A’s on all of my report cards. However, I remember very little Spanish. I know that piscina is pool because Señora Sears told us, “Remember, class, do not piss in the piscina.” But apart from finding a swimming pool, I am pretty useless in Spain. The words I memorized for the tests have evaporated from my brain.

On the other side, it is amazing the details I remember from lessons Señor Hardship taught me. I can repaint the scenes with a fine brush—the pained look of someone I hurt, the vacuous numbness of loneliness, the excruciating effects of wrong choices. These are lessons I cannot forget. Hardship teaches well. Hardship burns the lesson into our skin so we cannot forget. The pain makes us wiser

Hardship is my trainer. It makes me stronger.

I never liked running. My joke was, “If you want me to run, chase me with a gun.” The idea of putting myself through pain did not seem compatible with fun. However, recently I have come to enjoy running. In truth, I still dislike the pain, but I like how I feel afterwards. I feel stronger. Each time I run I can go farther or faster. My muscles and my endurance is growing through the pain.

Hardships do the same thing in our lives. When we are young, we cannot bear much stress before we crumple beneath it. The stress, however, makes us stronger. Today I can thrive in situations that would have crushed me before. The hardships have made me stronger.

Hardship is my coach. It makes me a believer.

I remember the halftime scene, my high school basketball team gathered in a haphazard circle in the locker room. Our heads hung low, pressed down by the declaration of the scoreboard—we were losing. Our coach entered, back straight and eyes wide. “We are going to win this game. The second half will be different. This team cannot stop us when we play up to our potential.” He believed in us. We began to believe. We won the game.

Hardship also helps me believe. I do not know the full extent of my capabilities until I face obstacles and overcome them. Without challenges, doubt would rule. Each mountain I summit expands my belief and prepares me for even harder climbs. Hardship makes me a believer.

Hardship is my investor. It makes me richer.

Think about the things you value most in your life. Your family, position, possessions. Did they come easily? That which is easily obtained is not greatly valued. (you can tweet that)

I love to tell the story of how I met, dated and married my wife. Why? Because she was hard to catch. She didn’t like me the first 6 months. She told me she wanted to be friends.  There were sleepless nights and agonizing days. I almost gave up. But now, when I recount the story, I am reminded again how fortunate I am to be her husband. The challenge reminds me how rich I am. Hardship does that.

 I could continue, but I would rather hear from you. What has hardship done for you?

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