There is nothing like the feeling of overcoming a challenge. A good story is simply a person who wants something and overcomes conflict/obstacles to achieve it. And we long to live good stories.
I grew up on the stories that ended with “happily ever after”. The struggle was over. The world-ending event was avoided. The addiction was overcome. The romance was realized.
But as an adult living in the real world, I have found that the other side of struggle is not as easy and peaceful as I once believed. My story doesn’t end with the rolling of the credits after a satisfied conclusion.
Learning From Triumph
In fact, when I succeed, there is usually a new danger I am stepping into. An immediate and almost imperceptible one.
As soon as I overcome a struggle, I start to relax. I start to settle into enjoy my happily ever after, sailing into the sunset. From the honeymoon after our wedding to the first few weeks after having the courage to move to my dream city and the first few months of my dream job. I settle in.
There is perhaps nothing so jarring as the surprise we face when a new struggle inevitably arrives. We thought we were done. We thought we had won.
But the struggles of life are never truly over. We might change one set of circumstances for another. We might have ridden out the pit of despair in one season or area of our lives. But it always comes back.
And it always seems new. When I am struggling, I make the mistake of thinking my solution is a circumstantial solution. When I achieve the new circumstance, I instantly become apathetic.
The great lessons of struggle (and triumph) are often lost on me. I don’t learn. I don’t grow. I just feel like I do because my circumstances change. And then I find myself just as lost, confused, or angry when a new struggle makes itself known.
Learning from Struggle
I spend so much time trying to avoid struggle. And so much time relieved when it isn’t there (or is quieter than it could be). I ride these waves of life as if each crest and fall is definitive. And I don’t see the value in any of it. Just in the slight pauses in between.
The truth is there is immense value in our struggles. There is an intimacy that develops through handling our conflict well. There is awareness to be had by assessing the onset of our emotions and what value they have pressed. There is strength and perspective to be gained by the beautiful difficulties of perseverance.
On the other side of struggle, there is a respite. One to be enjoyed and valued for its own sake. But life is the shape of a mountain range. When we ascend to the top of one mountain, it just means we have to come back down. Overcoming one obstacle is a precursor to discovering another.
We do not win at life by finding the last obstacle to overcome. We win by discovering how to see value in all areas of life. All seasons and circumstances. The truth is not a finish line. It is not waiting for us in one specific place or time. It transcends all of our struggles, and all of our triumphs.