Incredibly, it was thirteen years ago that I first shared about Alex and Brett Harris’s excellent book Do Hard Things. I said then, and I still believe, that it is a vitally needed book in our churches and our culture.
I keep in touch with Brett and Alex, and I followed up with a blog in 2015 talking about how both of them were continuing to do hard things. I love these two young men, and the wonderful wives God has given them. (Here’s a powerful article we shared a few years ago from Ana, Brett’s wife, no stranger to suffering.)
I’ve been in an email loop with Alex and Brett, and it’s wonderful to see God’s grace in their lives. Recently they posted a great follow-up, talking about their lives over a decade after the publication of Do Hard Things:
In my book If God Is Good, I talk about how the suffering and trials we face—the hard things—are steep hills that increase our spiritual lung capacity; resistance builds our endurance.
In our side yard a tree has survived ice storms, heavy snows, and howling winds. Several times in the thirty years we’ve lived here, I thought it would fall. Now I expect it to long outlast me. I’ve taken pictures of my preschool daughters in that tree, and now of their children, my grandsons. It has lost many thick limbs, but others have grown, and harsh circumstances have made it stronger. In contrast, many protected and untested trees have long since fallen.
This tree has another secret. It lies at the lower part of our property, where the water sinks deep into the soil. This tree has all the nourishment it needs. The Bible says of the righteous man, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (Psalm 1:3).
Every athletic champion will tell you that excellence comes out of disciplined training—and all training centers on resistance. Without obstacles, we cannot build strength, whether in the physical or spiritual realms. Whatever costs nothing is worthless, but whatever is worthwhile costs a great deal.
The apostle wrote, “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9). He considered three things inseparable: suffering, kingdom, and patient endurance in Christ. No suffering, no kingdom. No suffering, no endurance.
Let’s be honest: virtually everyone who has suffered little in life is shallow, unmotivated, self-absorbed, and lacking in character. You know it and so do I. And yet we do everything we can to avoid challenges, both to our children and to ourselves. If we succeed in our avoidance, we’ll develop in ourselves and our children the sort of character we least admire.
God’s parenting method doesn’t shield us from adversity and the character it builds. We would do well to learn from Him.