“A montage is a movie apologizing for reality”
I learned it in the 7th episode of Season 1 of Lost when Locke shows Charlie a moth cocoon to teach him about detox. Locke explains that if he cut open the cocoon and let the fighting moth go free, it wouldn’t be strong enough to fly yet. And it would fall to the ground and die.
I learned it from the lady who leads Kayla’s workout videos saying, “Hate me today, love me tomorrow.”
I learned it over 17 brutal winters in Chicago waiting for months every year for that first, glorious 60-degree day.
I learned it by watching my 3-year-old son learn to put his shoes on.
I learned it reading the biographies of Sylvester Stallone, Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, Ben Carson, Abraham Lincoln, Larry Bird, and nearly every other successful person in history.
And I learned it from the mercy of God instituting blessings within the consequences for Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. At least after you read John 16:21 and the entire book of Ecclesiastes.
Struggle. It’s good for us and eventually brings us joy.
So why do we hate it?
Today isn’t an attempt at a profound answer to that question. In simple terms, it is because man is by nature sinful. A primary fruit of that is being selfishly near-sighted. My response to this even lacking in depth is still worth communicating.
Here are biblical truths that God constantly has to teach me when I think of my own hatred of struggle.
Hating the struggle values complaining more than joy.
Although it is healthy to mourn, grieve and lament, the Bible bends sharply against complaining (Numbers 14:27, Philippians 2:14).
Yet because I hate struggle, my complaints come out of a holster most days. Traffic goes down to one lane, causing a 20-minute delay? Ugh. Rain forecasted for our day at the zoo? Boo! Allergies bothering me? NOOOOOO!!
I can be better. Not because I’m a good person, but because God is good. Joy doesn’t depend on circumstances. If I cannot keep complaining to a minimum, even when I’m in standstill traffic, I need to repent. I truly feel it is the mark of a spiritually and emotionally healthy person to react to these relatively minor inconveniences not merely with patience but with a disposition of joy. Nothing fake. The real thing only Jesus can provide. Joy may be a choice, but it is foundationally a fruit.
Hating the struggle values the temporary more than the enteral.
I doubt any passage of Scripture means more to me than 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 right now:
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, our inner man is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.
I preached this at Easter at my church. Every ounce of pain and every millisecond of suffering they endure will be given back to us in a weight of glory in eternity. A man named Jim Price in my church died last November. He was wheelchair-bound and had countless health problems. When he passed, everyone said things like, “He doesn’t need the wheelchair anymore!” and “He has seen Jesus!”
And those two truths are as magnificent as any. But this is a third mind-blowing truth about the Resurrection of Jesus: every hospital stay, every needle prick, every single time he transported himself from his bed to his wheelchair using only his arms produced glory that Jim is experiencing in Heaven right now. A glory so awesome, not even the worst of what he went through on earth can compare to it.
Hating the struggle values comfort more than discipline.
This point is an echo of the previous point. Struggle gives us something on earth now as well as in Heaven then. This is reflected in how many have noted that the Kingdom of God has an “Already” and “Not Yet” aspect to it. There’s something glorious to come, but in another sense, something valuable is already here.
Discipline is a crucial part of Christianity God wants us to value right now as we follow him, not later. To wit:
“The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them…
For lack of discipline they will die,” [Proverbs 5:22-23]
“I discipline my body and make it my slave…” [1 Corinthians 9:26-27]
“…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” [1 Timothy 4:7]
And we simply cannot achieve discipline, by God’s grace, if we hate struggle. It is no accident that the words “disciple” and “discipline” come from the same root. Jesus’s command to make disciples of all nations means we teach people to live with discipline. In prayer, in Bible reading, in every habit. So we embrace struggle at the expense of comfort.
Hating the struggle values complacency more than growth.
This is a natural outflow of the previous one. Discipline long-term equals growth. Isn’t that really a crucial goal of Christianity? To grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus? This manifests itself in countless ways. Generosity, boldness in witness, and encouraging others through written notes are three that God has led me to work on.
I don’t want to compare myself to Christian X in these areas. I want to compare myself to myself from a week ago, three months ago, two years ago. The only way I get better is to struggle. Like the moth in the cocoon. If I am not struggling it means I am complacent. And I am not growing. This never ends in this life. We never “arrive” (Philippians 3:12-16).
Paul models this in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 when he speaks to what he and Timothy endured. He starts by listing their sufferings. He then transitions to the fruit of the Spirit. And he concludes with how their attitude had risen above their sufferings. God didn’t change their circumstances. He changed Paul and Timothy.
Hating the struggle values the end more than the means.
This one is basically a summation of the previous two.
We love the “finished” product, be it some impressive, meticulous thing someone built or a person who has lost 50 pounds. But those things do not come without struggle. And I am positive God cares far more about how we get the end result of anything we do than the end result itself. I can lose weight through surgery. Losing it through eating well and being active is a daily struggle, but it is far better. In fact, I’d much rather lose 15 pounds from struggle than 30 from a shortcut.
This is why TV and movies often give us montages when the hero or heroes go through a radical transformation. To see the day-in and day-out hardships would be boring. We only want the brief highlights and then the victory. But struggle is beautiful, even if not entertaining.
Hating the struggle values ignoring our weaknesses more than boasting in our weaknesses.
When you struggle in Christianity, you realize how weak, ignorant, and helpless you are. Everything, from bad circumstances (like COVID), to sin failures, to ineffective ministry efforts, has taught me this. But when these things befall us it is wise biblically to respond by exalting Christ and confessing our weaknesses. I.e., “boasting” in them. The alternative is to quit trying so we no longer struggle. And to ignore our weaknesses, sins, and failures entirely to assuage our ego. But God wants something different. He wants us to remain humble and humbled. So only he gets the glory.
Struggle achieves this in a way few other things can.
Those are the things God is teaching me. Feedback is welcomed below, as always.