Why We Need to Struggle

When I run into her next to the spaghetti at the grocery store, she hugs me and says, “so, was your trip to Kenya just ah-maazing!?!?” She drags out the last word and her voice goes up and I am afraid to commit. It’s the tone used to describe a memorable vacation in an exotic place with a lot of exclamation points.

Before I can answer, she says, “I bet you just want to give all this up and move there!”

What I mean to say is “Yes, we had some amazing moments. But it was also hard.”

But instead what came out was, “On my last day in Kenya, I convinced one of our girls not to run away with her tiny baby, lost track of when my family had showered last and counted the hours until we boarded the plane. Oh, and I saw a man die in the middle of the road.”

She couldn’t grab her noodles fast enough.

I am not good at any of this: When I’m here, surrounded by comfort, I long for there. I get sick of all the stuff and pressure and complications of living first world. When I’m there, tangled in a mosquito net, wondering if we will have water, covered in dust, out of my comfort zone in a hundred ways, I revel in the simplicity of life and how close God is, but I long for here.

I try to wipe away the stain of the human suffering I witnessed, I try to forget the world that didn’t even pause when a man died after a hit-and-run in front of our van on the way to the airport. I’m packing my house and living 360 degrees different than I did a few weeks ago.

I. Struggle.

Yesterday, as I read Ann’s post about her anger,  I couldn’t help but feel it, too. I am ashamed at the relief I feel when I am home, how much I love the ease, the comfort and convenience in America. I am mad that I long for both worlds. I hunger for this while I ache for that.

I. Struggle.

Sometimes I think I initially said yes to Mercy House because of guilt and my fix-it way-of-thinking. That’s why I am slow to take credit for what has been accomplished in the last 18 months because it was all God and just a minuscule speck of me.

It all comes down to this question: Do I love my comfort more than Christ?

I get a different answer every day. And when I peel back the layers, I discover the anger. But we need to struggle.

If we aren’t struggling against our culture, we are giving into it.

Today, this email from a friend landed in my inbox. I asked her if I could share a part of it. She and her husband just bought a new house.

” I don’t like the way the house looks. It’s got old, stretched out, stained carpet and white walls…When we bought the house, I had fully planned on taking up the carpet and refinishing the wood floors underneath,, as well as putting a fresh coat of paint on all the walls, which is purely a vain desire. But nothing needs to be changed or updated…not even close. After reading Ann’s post yesterday, I spent the rest of the evening in tears before I just finally went to bed (at 7:00 p.m.) to escape all of the ugly emotions swirling around in my head and heart.

All day today, I have fasted from Pinterest or even thinking about home decor and I honestly can’t decide if I’m being sinful or not in wanting those things. So my question is this: If you were in the same position, would you refinish the floors and paint the walls or would you invest the money in Mercy House?

My answer:

Yes.

We would give money to Mercy House and we would paint (eventually). I told her the bottom line for us is this: we feel good about what we are giving and doing for God (and if we don’t, something is wrong). We hold our money loosely. If God lays it on our heart to give someone money, we do it. But at the same time, we also get what we need and occasionally what we want. And we struggle. Does God ask us to lay aside our plans to get something we want to provide for someone in need? Absolutely. Heed that invitation. You’ll never regret it. But don’t be a slave to guilt.

I responded, “In my opinion, I don’t think it’s wrong to paint or update some, I think it’s wrong to go into debt to do it or to ignore the nudge to give to someone because you want things. Be generous givers and do the work of God and also set aside a bit of money to do good things for your family.”

“Struggle is the food from which change is made, and the best time to make the most of a struggle is when it’s right in front of your face.

Now, I know that might sound a bit simplistic. But, too often we’re led to believe that struggling is a bad thing, or that we struggle because we’re doing something wrong.

I disagree. I look at struggle as an opportunity to grow. True struggle happens when you can sense what is not working for you and you’re willing to take the appropriate action to correct the situation. Those who accomplish change are willing to engage the struggle.” -Danny Dreyer

Most of all,  whatever you do, don’t stop struggling.


Comments

  1. says

    Kristen, I wrote a long post but do not see it. Your words spoke volumes to me. I love you. As I read Ann’s post yesterday my heart hurt…. I see MH through your eyes, I see Haiti through her eyes… so many of you have opened up the world to us and we are changed for it. God has completely changed the way I see the world… the way I live it.

    my words to not come out right…..

    much love

  2. says

    Kristen,
    I can completely relate to this- the rollercoaster of emotions- I’ve been there. I think some of my least favorite, and fondest memories were in my travels back and to South Africa. I mean literally, the plane ride. My struggle was so evident, my heart was in both places. I dreaded the questions, “how was your trip?”..did they really want to know? Did they want to truth, or do they want fluff? I can picture your friend grabbing those noodles and slowly running, I’ve been there. I pray for you and your family. I pray that you will take the time to process, that you will take the time to just be…..exactly where you are.
    Great post!
    -Mandy

  3. says

    Thank you for putting your ache into words. May our hearts continue to break by what breaks our Lord’s heart. May He move each of us clearly in our prayers, our thoughts & attitudes, our words, and our actions as we respond to the pain and hurt of our world. May we be troubled. May we struggle and ache. May we respond in generous, gracious love.

    Deb Weaver
    thewordweaver.com

  4. says

    I understand struggle is a good thing, but it is so hard!! Makes me long for the days to come when struggle will be gone and we will be HOME. Which is a good thing, but still doesn’t make the hard easy.

  5. AmberK says

    Can I admit that I am relieved? I’m relieved to read these things from you because…I feel them and I’ve not even left the country! I’ve not watched a man needlessly die in front of me. I’ve not watched a woman who loves her children as much as I love mine wonder if she can get them clean water to drink. I’ve not hugged a young mommy who was tortured and is trying to love the baby God gifted her through the tragedy…and yet, I still sit here terrified and then relieved. I’m terrified of all that you do and see and that I only experience through your words-feeling like I was there…I’m a wimp. But I love God and I love His people and I hurt for what hurts Him. And my friend, Kristen, whom I’ve never met in person. It’s true. So I feel HOPE as I STRUGGLE. And I pray you feel HOPE too because even in your struggles you are saying YES. And that ain’t for no wimp.

    XOXOX Hang in there sister. I’m praying with many others for you and for Mercy House.

    Hugs
    Amber K

  6. Katie says

    What an excellent post! My heart resonates with everything you are saying. In the last month, God has shown me in difficult ways just how demanding I am of my comforts, despite my disgust at the world I am surrounded by. It’s a painful paradox and yes, it’s a struggle! I love the quote from Danny Dreyer at the end. Thanks so much for sharing this, God bless you!

  7. says

    I could so relate to Ann and I so relate to you here too, Kristen. I agree with you about the struggle. My motto is, “Just sit in it.” Sit in the pain and the discomfort and face it head-on. I’m convinced good stuff happens in our souls when we sit it in it, even when it might not “feel good” at all. Thanks, Kristen.

  8. says

    It is here, at the broken place, that lives are changed. Where comfortable becomes contaminated. It is only then that we are ready to hear what God has to say. The place where balance is found is in knowing HIM more. Not in our own efforts, but in HIS. We go as HIS Spirit leads and empowers.

  9. Susanelizabeth says

    I tried to read Ann’s blog to my husband the other night and could not finish it. I kept breaking into sobs. I get angry too. And sad. And excited. And glad. Glad that I no longer live under the rock that ignores the literally hundreds of scriptures about feeding the hungry, caring for the orphan and, well, living a radical, and uncomfortable life. It’s painful to grow up at 60yrs of age. But, I am looking forward to the future. And praying that I never, ever forget. And live and give. Differently.

  10. says

    Yes, yes, and YES! I believe that God puts that struggle in our hearts as a way for us to truly long for Home. A perfect home. A home with no more suffering, no more pain, no more young moms running away with their babies. All of this, here, should make us long for the day when our home will be full of rejoicing and will lack no good thing. If we’re not struggling, we’re not longing, and that’s when we should really sit up and take notice of our souls.

  11. says

    “Life is hard anyway, why not ‘make hard matter’…” ~ Beth Moore
    I just saw this quote this morning and decided to claim it as my own. The tension that you are feeling is so painful, but that’s how you know you’re where you should be, right? I don’t know you, but I’m proud of you. You heard Jesus’ call and answered it and miracles have happened (and still are). It does make a difference. You are making a difference. Not because of who you are, but because of the Holy Spirit within you. That’s a miracle too.

  12. says

    oh my, oh my. your words are a balm to my struggling, heaving heart. this week, why this week and not others?, but this week I’ve ranted and fretted and worried and grieved as I struggled to know if giving my daughters’ ballet, swim and karate lessons is a right good thing when one of our sponsored children is living in a house with cardboard floors and malaria blowing in the windows and abuse running rampant in her home.

    and everyday I sing “create in me a clean heart, O Lord and renew a right spirit within me” even though I don’t even know how to wear a right spirit within me.

    thank you for writing these words

  13. Debra Shepard Stanley says

    WOW!! Thanks for sharing!!! Having been in Africa I have witnessed so much that it just blew my mind too. This really hit home today!
    Debra

  14. Vicki says

    Kristen,

    Thank you for sharing so honestly. You touch my heart at its core.

    I am so thankful that I have found your blog. I lost my husband about 9 months ago and I have felt paralyzed since then. But thanks to God, through you, I have begun to find my calling. Serving others is so important. Going through cancer you realize how much we need each other. So now I have begun to volunteer in the community with homeless girls and their children and we are also volunteering with our local chapter of Feed My Starving Children. I no longer feel so helpless. My 8 year old son is excited too. He really has a heart for Africa (we have missionary friends in Tanzania and grandma has visited them). When I shared some of your trip with him, he decided to do extra chores for Grandma to earn money for Mercy House.

    Thank you for sharing your journey and for being obedient to God. You are touching so many people.
    Many Blessings to you and your family!

    Vicki

    • celina boulanger says

      thanks for mentioning feed my starving children..they are having a local event in october so i’ll be contacting them..THANKS>..the whole family will be attenting and helping…

      feeding Hungry kids is always on my heart…

      now looking for an organization in virginia that helps virginian kids if anyone knows of any..(i’m new to the states)

  15. says

    Thank you. I needed this so much. I think I have that “fix it” attitude too and want to feel peace but perhaps this is changing my perspective…it’s being fixed when I’m struggling.

  16. says

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I can totally relate having been on many mission trips. Thanks again for posting this, it was great!

  17. says

    I read Ann’s blog too a couple days and today as well. Kristen, I adore you…(not in a crazed fan way, trust me) ..your heart is God’s heart. Your struggles, and your absolute openess to share them is just what the world needs. What an amazing testimony to tell! You said YES to God, to His plans, to His BIG TO US dreams!
    I wish I lived nearby, or had an opportunity to meet you, because you know what? I would not make you explain any of this. I would hug you, say “I know” and then help you finish packing, unpacking, or whatever it is you needed done. Because I struggle too. A vortex of thoughts and feelings and dreams. While young I helped build homes on the edge of the dump in Mexico, I traveled to places and saw things that opened my eyes. I still have no idea how bad it really is, until someone shares what they saw, what they experienced, and what they felt. Thank you for being honest.
    Don’t forget to breathe.

  18. Queen Mary says

    Boy do I hear you! I just subscribe and this is the first missive I get!
    I’ll share a story. Our church adopted a family – a local family – a single mother with 5 kids – the idea was to provide support so she could stay off welfare if possible. So we’d prepare baskets, supplement holidays, that sort of thing. She had twins who fit right between my two kids in age so our family adopted the twins. Easter came and the kids and I went after church to buy things for the Easter baskets for the twins. Now my kids had bought them Christmas gifts, sent cards, they had a relationship — but my kids still believed in the Easter bunny at this time! As we walked the aisles and the kids kept putting more and more stuff in our shopping basket I started to get alarmed – afraid that my kids would expect similarly gargantuan Easter baskets! So I asked if maybe my kids didn’t think the twins would get suspicious if we gave them too much because they might know the Easter bunny wouldn’t bring so much — since the Easter bunny didn’t bring my kids that much stuff. I will never forget my 5 year old turning to me with a completely straight face and very serious countenance and responding, “Moooom, these are SPECIAL Easter baskets, the twins know that!” I figured if he wasn’t worried, I shouldn’t worry! If only we could all return to that age of innocence when the inequities of the world were so easily dealt with!

  19. says

    I just finished reading “Tales of the Not Forgotten” and have decided to have my children read it as well, and do some of the activities with them . As I was reading it I was having similar thoughts to the lady with the hardwood floor e-mail question (which I would tell her rip of the carpet, you can do that for free, give the floors a really good wash and then wash again with murphy’s oil and it won’t be as good as refinishing them but it will be a low cost solution for now, sorry renovator in me took over for a moment) Anyways I was feeling like the lady in the e-mail after reading “Tales of the not Forgotten” so many things I want to save up for, but what do they really count for! What gifts am I leaving for eternity!

  20. Noel says

    Kristen,
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have had this inner turmoil/struggle taking place for quite sometime. I told my husband I wish we lived in the US and were blissfully ignorant or we would just leave and face reality for what it is. Living here and truly knowing what is happening is so hard on the heart. This is the blessing of social media. We are so much more aware of what is happening outside of our own little lives. And then comes the question of what do we do. Thank you for helping me see struggle as something positive. Struggle pushes us to finally do something, however big or small. I appreciate your heart. I appreciate your struggle. It encourages me as I face my own. As we struggle in this place of “already/not yet”, may you be encouraged to keep pressing on, bringing God’s kingdom here on earth.

  21. Terri M says

    Struggles are not easy to go through but they are always a chance to grow in your faith. I love that God does lay things on our hearts, then you know you are doing what He would have you to do. Thanks for the encouragement. Blessings on your family.

  22. says

    Thank you so much. I have been struggling with this question the last three days. Though I thought I was making the right decision in something, I had been scared I choice what I did only because I felt guilty. Thank you so much.

  23. says

    Thank you- my husband and I are living in SE Asia for 6 months. We have been here less than 2 months, but I am already feeling this inner battle. This was helpful!

  24. Maggie says

    “If we aren’t struggling against our culture, we are giving into it.”

    Oh, how true this is! I am happy to know that there are quite a few people out there who feel the same.
    Blessings in your struggles,
    Maggie

  25. says

    Oh wow, I just found your blog for the first time via simplemom.net. I absolutely love this post. I’ll be back to read more! :) Thank you for sharing what’s on your heart in such an accessible, honest way.

    I’ve been having a different struggle recently, and struggling about the struggle, that I wrote about here. http://www.multiplerealitiesblog.com/2012/07/coming-up-for-air.html

    The quote you posted at the end here really spoke to me and I thank you for sharing it.

    -Jenn

  26. says

    I’m also a first time reader and found your post pushed a couple of buttons for me. Life is a balancing act for sure and it’s always good to be reminded of how lucky we are to live in the first world and to have our first world problems – gee, should I go back to work/ breast feed my 5 yo/repair or replace etc, etc. but it shouldn’t have to be considered a ‘bad’ thing to want to improve your life. You can bet your bottom gift giving dollar that everyone including those living in refugee camps, war zones, poverty, orphanages etc. ALL want to improve their lives and circumstances. Pretty sure they would go into debt to do this. Is that bad?

  27. says

    Hello there. I’m another Krysten and I just stumbled across this post. I’m in love with it. This struggle you’re speaking of is one that I’ve had over the past several years too and it has been magnified even more in the past 12 months. I visited India last Christmas and when I got home to my comfy, cozy, wealthy life in Ohio, I felt wretched and confused. I am still trying to find that balance between an overwhelming sense of guilt and the ease of living I enjoy here in my home country. I am glad that I struggle with this, because before the holy spirit moved me to see things with my own eyes that I’d never seen…I went on about my days unaware of the comfort I truly enjoy in every little thing. Thank you for this insight, it helps in the struggle. It feels healthy even though it’s hard.

  28. says

    What an amazing post. I know I give ALOT as a mother but honestly, my family and I are all comfortable and safe. Thanks for your story, it’s definitely struck a chord with me. C

  29. says

    14 years ago on the way to the airport in Kenya I watched a woman (carrying laundry in a basket on her head) get hit and not a car stopped. I begged our driver to tell the toll booth operator when we got to the booth…but he didn’t say a word. At the airport I was stunned. I kept telling my husband (then, not a Christian) that we needed to do something, to say something to someone. He yelled at me to be quiet before we couldn’t leave the country.

    If I close my eyes I can still see her face (eyes wide open and one arm outstretched) and I can still hear the cars whizzing by.

    I cannot believe you witnessed the same awful thing….

  30. says

    Loved this post! I also read Ann’s post and got it, I even blogged about it. I’ll have to blog about yours, since I really get the struggle. I appreciate that God has given you an audience to blog to and share this struggle.

  31. says

    This article makes me uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable, not with what I have, but with my apathy. It is so easy to forget that in our struggles to pay mortgages and car payments, that we enjoy daily bread while others are wondering where theirs is coming from each day. I’m uncomfortable that I seem to have such a difficult time finding that balance between “the blessings of God” and the suffering of fellow humans. But I agree with your beautifully written article that in the midst of struggle we find balance. We find humility, love, forgiveness and grace. Nice article. I enjoyed reading it and was blessed.

  32. says

    An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment.
    I do think that you ought to write more on
    this issue, it might not be a taboo matter but usually folks
    don’t speak about such subjects. To the next! Many thanks!!

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