Monday, February 24, 2014

Hard Isn't Bad

So I have some questions for ya.
Get ready to think and also to type.

First, a little background:

Around Christmastime this past year I went home to Mesa. I was still a pretty broken-hearted person. To be perfectly honest, it took me three months to start feeling fairly normal again—not the same, but more normal. While in Arizona I spent an hour or two with Greg in the home of Jenny, my Denton mom and also a very good friend. Something she said struck a chord with me, and I’ve thought about it often since then.

“Hard isn’t bad.  It’s just hard.” 

I believe this with all of my heart. Difficult things are not inherently terrible things. In fact, I would think it’s totally accurate to say that our greatest difficulties have the potential to encompass and engender our greatest blessings, our greatest triumphs, and even our greatest happinesses (and yes, I just made happiness a plural).
This is what Neal A. Maxwell said about challenges: “If, indeed, the things allotted to each of us have been divinely customized according to our ability and capacity, then for us to seek to wrench ourselves free of our schooling circumstances could be to tear ourselves away from carefully matched opportunities. To rant and to rail could be to go against divine wisdom, wisdom in which we may have once concurred before we came here. God knew beforehand each of our coefficients for coping and contributing and has so ordered our lives.”

I hope I’m not the only one who had to read this like seventeen times before I understood it. Thanks to the lovely Christine for sharing this quote with me, I love it.

I like what he says about concurring—agreeing with God. Can you picture yourself in the time before you came here, sitting down with a Father and saying “Yes, I will try to do that. Yes, if that’s what you need me to do, I will do it.” I’ve felt strongly before that this has happened to me, but I’ve never heard anybody else actually endorse this mindset.

Let’s be honest about all of this, though. Even though Hard isn’t Bad…it is Hard. All of us will probably wish that we didn’t have to go through our Hard things.

But we do have to go through them. So where does that leave us? I’m not exactly sure, but all of these musings on Hard have left me with some questions. Questions I’m really interested to see your answers to, even very tentative answers. One of the reasons I’m interested in people’s perspectives on this is because I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately about infertility and miscarriage, and I’m trying to clarify what some of my themes are.

Get your thinking cap on, people.
Here are some things I’ve been wondering:

If hard isn’t bad, do you ever associate Hard with being inherently good?

Just because hard isn’t bad, does that make it “better” than something that’s easy?

If you have a situation where you can pick to do the easy thing or pick to do the hard thing, which do you pick? Why is that your inclination to pick that?

What do you think God expects us to pick? Do you think He ever allows us to choose? Why or why not?

Is it noble or at least note-worthy to pick to do the hard thing, or is it more noble or note-worthy to try to understand how the thing that you are doing is not as hard as you originally thought?

Christ said “Take my yoke upon you…For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I always thought this meant that if we strengthened our faith, even our most challenging trials could become easier, and even “easy” to bear. Does God give us hard things so that we can learn to handle those things like they are easy? Or are some things always going to be hard? What exactly is the definition of “easy” in this scripture?

Can love be hard? Is it supposed to be hard?  Is it supposed to be easy?

Is hope hard? Is it supposed to be hard? Is it supposed to be easy?

If our trials are “divinely customized” and “carefully matched” to us, do you think sometimes God gives us trials, on purpose, that are the hardest for us to bear? Or the easiest for us to bear?

The more I think about these things, the more I wonder if there are ever any solid answers. That being said, I do believe that our lives are going to be measured in large part by the deliberate choices we make when we are confronted with “Hard.”

So now, let me know your thoughts. I’ve never written this blog in order to generate a lot of comments. Sure, comments are nice. Some things people have related to me on this little blog have changed my perspective, or made me feel loved, or helped me to cope. And I really like that, and I appreciate it. But I’ve never been really super concerned with comments, if that makes sense.

Today, I’m asking for comments.  I really want to hear what everyone thinks.

Seriously. I’m talking to you.

Thanks. Peace and Word.


  1. haha that was a lot of questions. I am only 19 and in my few short years of life I don't think I have had to do very many hard things . But one of the things I always wanted so bad was to be in student government. But I never won an election, and that was hard. It was so so hard, and its still hard to look back and know that every single year I lost. But when I finally received an appointed position I appreciated my place so much more than the others. So I think sometimes ya it can be better than something that is easy. I learned WAY more losing than I ever would have if I all I did was win.
    It would be easier to stop running, especially since I came to college; but, I keep picking the harder thing, to run and put myself out there with the potential to be rejected, because in the end one win will be worth every loss.
    I don't think God always expects us to pick the harder thing. I don't think he enjoys watching us hurt and struggle while we deal with hard things. But he gives us multiple opportunities so that sometimes we can choose the harder thing and grow more from it.
    I finally decided a few years ago that whatever the result of the election I would be happy. I thought that by deciding that whatever was supposed to happen would, I wouldn't be hurt if I lost. and yet every loss still hurts. Looking back I can see the great blessing that came from those losses (hindsight's always 20/20) and yet when I think about them even now they hurt.
    I think love is definitely hard, from a girl who isn't in love. Its hard to want to be in love and not be, and hard to see other people happy and in love and not be. Its hard to love someone and not be loved back. But I think we appreciate love so much more because its hard- its hard but its worth it!
    I don't know if I would use the Lord as much in my life as I do, if I was not forced to learn to use him by my trials. My trials taught me to turn to him at all times and rely on him. I know if they had been easier, I would not have the relationship with my father in heaven that I have now.
    That was probably a little more than you bargained for...

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Aly. I liked what you said...that you knew a certain route would be the harder thing, but you still picked it. And that didn't mean that it was easy. And also that we appreciate the things that are harder. I think that is definitely true.

      Thanks again. And congrats on the mission call! :)

  2. These are some great thoughts, and I needed to read them today.

    Some of my thoughts, not very organized ...

    -In some areas, I do pick the harder patch, because I want the satisfaction of knowing I was able to accomplish that hard thing, and I also think I'll get more out of the experience (ex. natural childbirth, exercising, graduating with honors, reading great books vs. easy books, etc). It is easier for me to choose the hard path when I also know it will be the most fulfilling path.

    -In other areas, I yearn for the "easy." Specifically, right now I'm a SAHM to two little kids--and it is hard! I think what makes this type of "hard" especially difficult is that I don't see my progress right away, the growth is very gradual, and oftentimes the difficult moments far outnumber the easy ones. That being said, I know that it is only the hard moments that stretch me into a better, more capable person.

    -I don't know if "hard" is inherently good. I think learning is good, and that some topics/skills are harder to learn than others. Have you heard of the concept of flow? It's basically the sweet spot where your skills and the challenge at hand meet so that you are challenged just enough to be interested and feel capacity for growth, but you also have the skills to feel confident and competent in your work. I think is a great way to learn new things.

    -I don't really love the word "hard," because it has a negative connotation. I prefer "challenging," because that helps me visualize what I'm facing as something to be overcome and learned from--not just endured and whined about (because that's what I do when I'm feeling like something is just hard). I think, for me, the key is trying to see the meaning and capacity for growth behind my challenges, because then my perspective changes from "wo is me" to "I can do this ... I might need a lot of help from the Lord and others ... but I can do this because God wants me to learn something from this."

    Love you, Heather. You are amazing, and I really admire your perspective and search for meaning.

  3. I have actually been thinking about a similar idea a lot lately. I've realized that I often don't allow myself to just be sad about some things. If I do feel sad, I either shove it away until it boils up or I feel guilty for not being happy since I am so blessed. Then the other day I thought - I rely more on Christ when things are hard. Maybe it isn't a bad thing to be sad. Why do we put so much emphasis on being happy ALL the time? There is supposed to be opposition in all things. Also, yes my trials are easy compared to others and I am SO blessed, but I came here to have trials. My trials are hard for me, and that is ok. That's the way it's supposed to be. I don't know if that even answers any questions, but those are my thoughts. thank you again for your beautiful honesty and openness.

  4. Rather than answering each question here is my general answer. Hard gives us a chance to grow at an exponential rate compared to "easy". No matter who we are, we will be given the opportunity to experience the unpleasant things of life. Does God push us to the edge? In my experience the answer is yes but am I a better person for it? Also yes. Hard isn't fun because it becomes very personal to the point sometimes where others don't understand. It's my belief that this is in part by design so we come to rely solely on our Maker.

    Now do I think we should always be choosing the harder path? I think the answer to that is if the harder path is the right thing to do, then yes, and buckle up. Life is meant to be an experience of both the sweet and the sour. Without the sour things of life we would never know the sweet.

  5. I personally do feel like the Lord gives us the tRials that will make us grow most. Sometimes I look at other's trials and think "I could handle that" but then the Lord gives me simmering completely different that knocks me off my feet so I have to rely on him totally. Truthfully when I look back at my life, The hardest times were also the times of most growth so I guess that is a good thing. I have been trying to remember in the midst of a trial "what does the Lord want to teach me" or "what eternal god-like quality am I learning from this experience". It makes the focus more eternal which usually helps me a lot.

  6. I'll need more time to get a good answer to you. Great questions and thoughts. Love you.

  7. I typically haven't been that hands on with Heather's blog. I've read every post, and without fail I've learned every time I've read something. After reading this post a few times, I thought I might add my two cents as well.

    I find the questions asked to be very insightful and here is an example why. In a past ward during a Sunday School class, an individual asked a question to the teacher as well as the others attending the class. I knew the person asking the question fairly well, and I was pretty sure he knew the answer to the question he was asking. There were some who took his question as an opportunity to teach him something he didn't know. Which is not a bad thing at all. However, I think there is a deeper level of understanding that can be had for insightful questions. A good question will often teach the person answering the question far more than it will ever teach the person asking the question. The questions asked in this blog post can really teach anyone a great deal if that is understood.

    That being said, I would like to take a stab at answering the questions, "Is hope hard? Is it supposed to be hard? Is it supposed to be easy?" Hopefully I can glean something out of my own response as I put thoughts down in writing.

    I do think hope is hard, because I think a heartfelt understanding of hope brings new light to the word that can make it difficult to apply. The culture of the Mormon church and the scriptures use the word hope to describe multiple ideas. Sometimes the word hope is used in an almost helpless context. For example, "Man, I sure do hope that Heather and I have kids soon" (said with a sense of despair and really hopelessness). My actual feelings and thoughts are the exact opposite of what the words coming out of my mouth are supposed to mean. This form of hope is often used by many individuals including myself, and it's not exactly how the scriptures and prophets use the word hope.

    Romans 8:24 says that "we are saved by hope." If we are saved by hope, I'm pretty sure we have to mean it when we say it. President Uchtdorf gave a talk titled "The Infinite Power of Hope." If hope has infinite capabilities then without a doubt it will be hard to apply just like all infinite principles take a lifetime and more to correctly apply to our individual circumstances.

    One of the most important aspects of hope is that it has to be centered in Jesus Christ and his atonement. 2 Nephi 9:6-13 describe the consequences of not having the atonement and the joy that the atonement brings into our lives. If it were not for the atonement of Christ, there would be no reason to hope because there would be no possibility of redemption and receiving the promised the blessings.

    So hope is hard, and I think it should be hard at times. Not that it is always hard to apply but there are definite situations where hope is harder to apply than others. After over 3 years of attempting to have kids with a miscarriage and losing our twin little boys, Austin and Danny, in the second trimester, it can become incredibly hard to hope that we'll get pregnant this time. My logical mind tries to convince me that the odds are against us. It hasn't worked out before so why would it now? However, the scriptures teach us to have hope anyway. We have been promised the blessing of kids, and because of the atonement we will have kids.