Each of us is faced with thousands of choices every day that define our thoughts, our behavior, and who we are to the world. This fall’s Thrive Conference explores the idea that the choices we make hold power and provide opportunities that influence ourselves, others, and how we see God. Each Tuesday from now until October, we’ll feature one story of someone whose life was changed by the conference or who was faced with a choice and held firmly to the belief that “I Choose.” Today’s story is courtesy of  Stasi Eldredge, one of our amazing speakers at this year’s Thrive, who writes about choosing your hard.

This is a bit of a confession. Here goes. I thought that following God and being a Christian would lead to a life that was kind of easy, filled only with joy, free from pain and sorrow. Silly me. I’m not even sure where I got that idea except for teachings often spouted by popular TV evangelists espousing a prosperity “name it and claim it” doctrine. It tickles the ears, doesn’t it? It’s so appealing, the thought that if you are a true believer you are spared suffering.

It is also completely contrary to what the scriptures teach. If Jesus was perfected through his suffering, who are we to think we won’t be perfected through the same means? (Heb. 2:10)

Now don’t get me wrong. Jesus came that we might have life and life to the FULL (John 10:10). It’s the JOY of the LORD that is our strength (Neh. 8:10). It’s just that the JOY and the LIFE come to us in the midst of the easy and the hard, the triumphs and the travails. Christ sustains us and strengthens us, but this is not Eden we find ourselves living in these days. We are not in Heaven. Not yet.

Life is hard.

Life is good. And life is hard. As maturing believers, we have many opportunities to CHOOSE OUR HARD. Here are some things I’ve learned:

It’s hard to stand up against the group when they are going the wrong direction – spiritually or any other way. It’s hard on our conscience afterwards if we don’t. That Jiminy Cricket won’t be quiet.

It’s hard to be kind to the mean, curmudgeonly neighbor. It’s hard as well to be convicted of being unloving later.

It’s hard to not spend the money on the item we so desire. It’s hard to save money.  It’s also hard to be in debt.

It’s hard to have a loving but tough confrontational conversation with a friend. It’s hard to not have one and then have offense and distance creep into that friendship.

It’s hard to fight for a marriage. It’s hard to lose a marriage.

It’s hard to break an addiction. It’s hard to be captive to one.

Choose your hard.

It’s hard to set aside time every single day and press into the heart of God. Sometimes, it’s hard to pray. It’s hard to find the time. It’s hard to live your day with strength, hope, and integrity if you don’t. It’s hard to pursue Living Water. It’s hard to live in a dry and thirsty land without it.

Choose your hard.

It’s hard to eat healthy. It’s hard to plan meals that are good for you. It’s hard to say no to temptation and pass the plate of brownies to others without taking one. It’s hard to set the alarm and get out of bed when you are tired and get up to exercise on a regular basis. It’s hard.

It’s hard to be out of breath after climbing a set of stairs. It’s hard to not be able to fit into a chair with arms. It’s hard to squeeze into an airplane seat. It’s hard to not find any cute clothes in your size. It’s hard to not like looking at pictures of yourself. It’s hard to live with shame and embarrassment.

Choose your hard.

It’s hard to fight for and guard your heart. It’s hard to lose it.

We get to choose our hard.

Think about your life. It’s not all hard. There’s so much good and there are countless things to be grateful for. In fact, one of my habits is to utter the words, “Thank You” as soon as I wake up. My life is hidden in Christ and my life is blessed because of him. It’s so good to cultivate a grateful heart. I have no idea what is coming my way on any given day, and neither do you, but why not expect good things? In fact, I can tell you this with utter certainty, good things are ALWAYS COMING YOUR WAY. A great good is coming. A greater good than you can even imagine.

I also play “The Best Day of My Life” by American Authors when I work out in the morning.  I’m going to set it as my ring tone. Because, really, it may just be the best day of my life. I won’t truly know until much later. I can guess that there are going to be hard things in the day. In every day. But the hard I am choosing is to follow Christ wherever he leads and that hard leads to life and joy. Always. Even in the midst of suffering.

Choose life.
Choose joy.
Choose thankfulness.
Choose Jesus.
Choose to obey.
Choose the good.
Choose your hard wisely.

Stasi Eldredge loves the joy and freedom that comes from knowing the passionate, stunning love of Jesus Christ and lives to see others come to know him more deeply.  She met her husband John in her High School Drama class, became a Christian her junior year in college and dove into the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. After graduating with a B.A. in Sociology, Stasi joined Youth for Christ to head up a ministry to pregnant teenagers and teen mothers. She has been active ever since. Stasi adores worship music, getting lost in a good novel, walking in the woods, hearing her sons’ laughter, the wind, cream in her coffee, the smell of the earth after it rains, family traditions, cherished friendships, the Tetons, rivers, mountain lakes, the grace and beauty of horses, the affection of her dog and most of all, the wonder of being the Beloved of God.