rebelling against low expectations

Finding Joy in Hard Things


Guest Post by Natalie Wickham

The wind whipped past me as we cruised up and down the country roads nestled between the beautiful Flint Hills. I was sitting comfortably atop the back seat of a Harley decked out with all the bells and whistles. “Ah, the life,” I sighed. But then reality reminded me that this was not my life. As soon as I returned home from this atypical early morning excursion, I would be thrust back into the load of responsibilities and things-to-do that are a more accurate characterization of my life.

What would it be like to live a carefree life of pleasure and freedom from the tyranny of a packed-full schedule? What would it be like to do my own thing – free of family obligations and the ever-pressing deadlines that require consistent, diligent effort if they are to be met? A dozen such “what ifs” accosted my mind as I pondered the delight that such a life seemed to promise.

My reverie was broken as the next realization hit me full force. Somehow, somewhere, unawares, I had been robbed of my joy. The thief had struck; the damage had been done (John 10:10). The constant flurry of running from one thing to the next, always striving to do the right thing, the next thing, the hard thing, had taken its toll. In my well-intentioned efforts to live a life of purpose and passion, I found myself instead drained and coveting the easier life that now paraded before my imagination.

Such is the temptation that eventually lures all who embrace the hard life of a rebelutionary. The hard things that once seemed glamorous and worthy of pursuit now seem, well…hard. The one hard thing that propelled us into the exciting fray is now replaced with ten hard things that require more diligence, more patience, and more sacrifice than we at first bargained for.

The appeal is acute, and the pull strong, to abandon the hard way and embrace the easier life of pleasure and apparent freedom. But beware; this is not the answer! The deceptive thief has laid his well-camouflaged trap, and we must not fall victim to his wiles (Ephesians 6:11). The path to joy is not in the absence of hard things. However, neither is the path to joy in merely the execution of hard things. Joy has only one Source, and the absence of joy must necessarily lead us to discover (or rediscover) that true satisfaction and delight flow only from the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we abide in Him, He promises that we will bear much fruit (John 15:5) And we find in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians that one of those fruits is joy for which our spirit longs (Galatians 5:22). It is Jesus whose example reminds us that our calling to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3), is, after all, the path whose end is joy – everlasting joy (Hebrews 12:2-3).

Rebelutionary, if you are weary of doing hard things, if you find yourself robbed of joy, take heart! Don’t abandon the way of hard things. You see, the Giver of Joy is standing in this way. Look to Him, delight in Him, walk with Him, and you will find joy (Psalm 16:11). This is key, for as the great leader Nehemiah once declared, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • Wow! Amazing, Natalie! While I don’t have a list of “hard things” that I do. I do have tons of stuff that seemingly “robs me of joy”. Like Latin. I have to learn Latin over the summer. It’s not fun, I don’t like it, in fact I hate it, and I wish I could stop doing it. But I can’t. I have to keep going. So because of that I’ve been sulking. Your post reminded me that Neither a life full of difficult things nor of pleasures will give me joy. I will seek joy from the Lord, not from escaping hard work! Thanks for the great post!


  • I totally agree, Up until recently I was running around just trying to live my life, do school, and survive. Then I started dating my girlfriend and she pointed me back toward God. God really sent her to help me realize I need to slow down and enjoy what God has given me. Another big lesson that God used her to point out to me was that I need to refocus my life on Christ. I was missing that true passion for Christ that every christian should have. I learned that I just need to give everything to God and do the best I can do in him. I dont need to let my joy be robbed because I wanted to do more or do it better. I completely agree with your post and just recently came to realize the same thing. And of course once I started to have that passion the hard thing might seem hard but within reach and completely worth it. I just keep remembering that no matter what I want to do or attempt to do God is there with me.

  • Well said, Natalie. Thanks for the encouragement.
    I would like to add Gal 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” NIV.
    We must realize that if we try to do hard things for their own sake, we won’t last very long. When we do something (easy or hard) because we love Jesus, then it’s irrelevant how hard it is.

  • That was a great post! Somewhere along the hard road, I lost my joy too. I’m still trying to find it but I haven’t lost hope. Thank you for the encouragement to keep going!

  • Wow, that is so true!
    If we have a post for you guys, do I send it to you? Or do you not do that sort of thing? I saw you let guests write several posts…just wondering.
    I don’t have one, but just in case.

    Yeah, I also was wondering when the second book would come out…I can’t wait!


  • I used to (and, up to a point, still do) grudgingly get and go do a thing when I felt the prompting…but my heart just wasn’t in it.

    What’s that, God? Wash the dishes while my mom takes an unexpected phone call? Uhh…no thanks. Remember, I was getting ready to go read Do Hard Things! I really don’t feel like it. I don’t NEED to do it.

    [a few minutes later…]

    God, didn’t we just talk about this? I’m really not interested in washing the dishes…okay, okay. Fine. I’ll go wash the dishes. I don’t want to do it…let me make THAT clear. But fine…just so I don’t get on Your bad side.

    Isn’t there a hymn that says “There is joy in serving Jesus”? I doubt if we’ll ever dance over getting to wash dishes or start singing at the top of our lungs when being told we get to scrub toilets, but from experience I can say that there truly is joy in serving Jesus. Approach whatever your tasks with the mindset, “God, I’m not excited about doing this. There are a lot of other things that I’d rather be doing. But I want to do it for You…with joy in my heart. Give me the grace to sing in my heart over being chosen to serve You in this way.”

    “…for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

  • This is really good. I was thinking about this earlier today. … about how much work we have to do, even in everyday life – daily tasks, caring for family. We just have to keep going.

    Mrs. White

  • Hm, so right. And Hannah has a really good point!
    But I was wondering, what if we do have a guest post? What do we do???

  • I love this post! You know, you never really appreciate what other people do. Most people are self-centered, but this story really opened my eyes.

  • Brandon: The book is scheduled for March 15, 2010. Lord-willing we’ll be finishing up the writing of it by the end of August.

    Josiah: We’re pretty selective with guest posts, but we still love it when people have things to share with their fellow rebelutionaries. Usually we’ll find something that someone has posted on their blog and ask if we can re-post it. But sometimes, as in Natalie’s case, people email us with something they’ve written.

  • Nicely put.
    I think we need to have a balance of hard things and time to relax, be just a bit lazy, but for only a little while, to rest up. Overworking yourself will get you nowhere and you can hurt yourself, sometimes seriously. I know first hand, getting hurt is never fun and leaves you having to cut things down till your better, in sports or work (hard things).

  • ♦ I know this all too well. Especially now, at one of those really hard times in life.
    My mom is going through a hard time due to chemical imbalances in her brain, and she ran out of the medicine that normally helps her through it. It’s causing her to withdraw from everyone, and so my dad has taken her to hotels and resorts and out to dinner and to the beach and lots of other places this past week, trying to give her a change of scenery and keep her mind occupied, and it’s looking like it’s going to be the same for this week.
    ♦ It’s been really hard on me these few weeks, because I’ve been needing and wanting my dad’s help and he hasn’t really been available, and I have to take care of my seven siblings. It’s been a difficult thing, I have DEFINATELY felt the joy being stolen. I’ve wanted to just flop down on my bed and cry because it’s not what I want to be doing. But someone once told me that the root of these feeling is often prIde. Not doing what others want, or even what God wants, because you think (and it may not be a concious thought) that you’re above having to do what everyone else wants, and that you should be able to do what YOU want. Some people think that that will make you happy. It is interesting to note that I is smack in the middle of the word prIde. Pride is when we think it’s all about us.
    ♦ I really needed this. Right now is a time that I NEED to be doing those hard things, and taking joy in them, too. Up until now I was running the wrong way. I guess I just needed a friendly little reminder to run back to my one true source of joy.
    Thanks for the great post!!! 🙂
    ~Kay Morris♫

  • That is a really insightful article, Natalie… It’s very important for us to realize that if we are called to push through some ‘hard thing’ which we know God has called and laid on our hearts to accomplish, He completely backs us the whole way. His Grace is sufficient, He is faithful, He never despairs, and we should never become discouraged when we walk with Him. Life is reality. And we can’t change anything in it. YET: we CAN control/change our personal response to reality, and its ups and downs. 🙂

  • Kay Morris: That’s sounds pretty difficult. I hope, and pray, that God gives you strength and joy to get through this tough time. I know I could never be so selfless as to do what you are having to do daily! Hope your Mom gets better!


  • Thanks so much for sharing, Natalie. I needed to hear this….over the last several months I’ve become tired of doing hard things and lost my joy because my focus was wrong. Thanks for the reminder to get back in tune with the Source of joy and life, Jesus.

  • Wow, you guys always post the things I need to hear when I need to hear them! 🙂 Great job Natalie and thanks!

    Can’t wait to see you again on Saturday Alex and Brett! 🙂

    Sarah 🙂

  • Thank you so much, Natalie. This was exactly what I needed to “hear”. I never really made the connection that we are being robbed of joy by the enemy. It puts so much in perspective.
    I can totally relate with Hannah’s comment:
    “What’s that, God? Wash the dishes while my mom takes an unexpected phone call? Uhh…no thanks. Remember, I was getting ready to go read Do Hard Things! I really don’t feel like it. I don’t NEED to do it.”
    In my experience, the small things can be the hardest, just because they’re more common, and don’t yield a great big “You did it!” complete with singing choir. (That is an exaggeration, but you know what I mean, right?) I often find myself viewing small hard things as a hindrance, and not a help, which they are.

  • Thanks Alex,

    by the way, how’s the wedding plans coming? 🙂

    I hope God blesses you in your marrige.

  • Yeah, this reminds me of something I once read where the devil was saying “Let’s keep all these Christians so busy that they lose their joy in serving God” and Satan does a good job of it!

  • Kay Morris, will be praying for your mom as well as for peace and strength for you and your family! Hang in there, girl.

    Thanks for posting, Natalie! This was exactly what I needed to read this morning =]

  • This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Thank you for posting this Natalie.

    I also am praying for your family Kay Morris.

  • Hi Natalie,

    I am very blessed by your prolific use of Scripture. Thank you. That’s an evidence of God’s grace in your life. 🙂

  • I think my God has really been trying to teach me to have joy in every aspect of my life. I find it so hard to stay joyful it difficult times, but I know that God is the one that gives us the true joy. Especially during summer things so easy and fun and I think to myself, “Now, this is the life!”, but then fall comes and everything seems so gloomy again. I am striving to have the joy of the Lord! 😉 Thank you so much for this encouraging post!

  • What an encouraging post. Thank you. I needed to hear that. I tend to forget that when I focus my happiness on worldly things it doesn’t last but when I seek the Lord he will strengthen me and bring everlasting Joy to my heart.

    Dear Lord, help us all to completely and utterly seek you so that our Joy may be full.

    yours always

  • I have been trying so hard to please the Lord with my actons by doing hard things that I sometimes forget to have joy! Thank You!

  • That’s what I needed to hear. This summer, I’ve been having a great vacation- no work, just enjoying my time. But looming over me has been the knowledge that once I get back, there will be no more hanging out and easy times. I’ll have to get back to a crazy school schedule, sharing a room with my sis again, house work, having to get along with my siblings (I’m vacationing with them, but not really hanging with them), you know… Thanks. Now, instead of groaning inside about my transition back into every day life, I will remember to try to be joyful about it.

  • It’s my first time to visit this site! I received a free book from OMF about “Do hard things” and the insights i got from the book have been on my heart and mind ever since. Can i just say that what you’ve blogged about is freakishly timely for me. The comments rock as well!!!

    Stay ever loyal and single-hearted to Christ everyone!

    Ricky Maddatu, 24, Philippines

  • Oh, how I needed this today!
    We just moved from Illinois to South Dakota, and we’re in the process of unpacking. I’m getting tired and grumpy.
    So, thanks so much for the encouragement!!!

  • Hi! I am a 8th grade student in South Korea. (I’m 15 years old in Korea.)

    I’ve recently finised reading “Do Hard Things” which my father bought for me in church.
    I was very impressed with the book, because it recalled my passion and desire for doing difficult and hard works. So I can totally agree with this post, that joy comes when we do hard things.

    South Korean students indeed study a lot. After school, almost all of them directly go to academies to learn math, English, science, etc., but nobody teaches them to have passion for doing hard works. So they don’t have any joy in their lives; they just do what their parents order them to do.

    In school, whenever teacher request us to do some project, nobody volunteer because of the scare and difficulties. I have been very sad to confront this reality, so I will recommend my friends to read “Do Hard Things” and visit The Rebelution homepage often. They really need some motivation.

    I was very happy to read this article and to visit the homepage, which recalled my passion and desire once again. Great thanks to all of rebelutionaries. God bless you!!

  • ♦ Camille, Katie Laitkep: Thank you SO much. Your prayers really mean alot. I’m sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I’ve been kind of busy lately.
    ~Kay Morris♫

  • This definitely struck a chord in me! I too, find myself very often wishing my life was different than it is. I see people who don’t have to work as hard as I do to get things they want, or that seem to be able to take it easy more often than I do–and I wish that I had it easier than I do. But when catch myself in that track–I realize I’ve completely lost my focus, of why I chose hard over easy. My goal in persevering in things that are hard is eternal!

  • great encouragement! It can be a real struggle to stay joyful in everyday life , especially when your “hard things ” are not incredibly glamourous. I have been struggling to remain joyful as I help to take care of my 4 special needs siblings during the day , and trying to start a “home college ” sort of thing at night. I always think that things are so incredibly difficult for me , and then I remember that everything I do are things I enjoy , like practicing music, studying history , or taking care of the kids while mom is out doing errands or having meetings. I just get so bogged down with not having a fully wonderful day that I forget to enjoy the moments. And Kay Morris , I will definitely praying for you and your family!

  • ♦ EricaAnn: Thank you for praying. My mom is starting to get better with her meds, so it’s not terrible right now. They are home a LOT more. My other siblings have also been stepping up to help me with the younger kids, so that has been a blessing. I, too, have realized how much I like it when my little brother comes up to me, bats his eyelashes, and asks for water. I always used to get frustrated that the little ones always asked ME to do everything for them, and then my dad said that they do that because when they ask me I’m nice to them. They know I love them, and so they come to me for help. There is SO much joy in that thought. It’s been much easier since I have pushed the negative thoughts away and focused on the positive side of everything I do. Even school has become a joy. Last night, I found myself asking permission to stay up a little longer to do some school, even though I had done more than usual already! 🙂
    I do thank everyone who prayed for me, I know that is a huge part of why things are improving. I feel so blessed that you guys would take the time to pray for me, and my prayer is that you would be blessed as you have blessed me. 🙂
    ~Kay Morris♥

  • What a great post. It is amazing to me that in the midst of doing what God has called us to do and invited us to do, we lose sight of why we are doing it. But I love the reminder of choosing to have Joy and recognizing where joy comes from. Excellent reminder. Really spoke to me, i will continue to do the hard things, because i do realize that joy is waiting at the end of the race.

  • thank you for this encouraing post. sometimes, life truly gets tough. storms come, sometimes we lose battles. There are even times when we force ourselves to just do hard things thinking that God will love us more. I admit there are times that I find doing hard things as a duty, but it must be a delight.

    I need your prayers co-rebelutionaries. tough times here. but I shall run the race with perseverance for my joy is God. 🙂

    God bless!
    Soli Deo Gloria!

  • Wow, this speaks to me. I never thought that doing hard things is not all that’s needed. I am beginning to get burnt out too. Thanks for the encouragement through this wonderful post!

  • very encouraging p0st! i’ve been facing tough stuff in my life to0. s0metimes, i can’t understand why i ahve to undergo such stuff, but then i realized that God d0es not all0w things to happen if He knew you can’t handle it. and God has such beautifuL plans for us to give up n0w…

    th0ugh it’s haRd, we shouLd keep on running this race! let us continually m0ve forward to achieve our calling…:D

    God bless us all!

  • Yes, and if you notice, people celebrate much more heartily after they’ve worked really hard. Not that we’re just doing hard things for the heck of it… that’s bringing glory to ourselves. We do them for a good reason – to glorify God or to launch ourselves into adulthood (which is kinda the same thing). We need to enjoy life while we can.

  • Thank you Natalie! My family has started something and to soon it seems to have turned into a chore that I want to hide from. Thank you for reminding me that I need to joy in ALL things.

  • As so many others have said, this was a much-needed, timely reminder that put into words and pinned down something that I have been struggling very much with lately. This summer has been so busy with work and studying and planning, planning, planning that I will all of a sudden get this feeling like “why am I even doing this, this is all pointless?” Thanks for the reminder that as Christians we have the greatest reason of all to do whatever task we are required to do – Jesus!

  • THIS is my struggle. It’s honestly my greatest struggle.
    It’s SO encouraging to hear the promise though.
    “He promises that we will bear much fruit (John 15:5).”

    Thank you for the reminder.

  • Thank you for the post. I love it when people talk about joy – as it truly is. It is not happiness. It is deeper and can endure all suffering. Here is a story I love. Watchman Nee spent the last 20 years of his life in prison in communist China, and was only allowed to see his wife in all that time. He suffered all sorts of persecution and also suffered from pneumonia or tuberculosis (can’t remember which) for a while, leading to his death. His last letter, as he lay sick and dying, was written to his sister-in-law (his wife had died). In the closing of the letter, he said that through it all, he had maintained his joy. He died that day. I long to be able to say that one day! That through it all, I have maintained my joy!

  • I was searchung the rebeltion website for inspiration for my son and am led to use the website, including your blog on finding joy in hard things for our youth group lessons. I wanted you to know, if you don’t already, that you have a true God given gift of writing and to encourage you to keep on with it. You have a beautiful way with words that will touch many hearts. I would love to continue but I know I have to go do some hard thing right now!

  • I found you’re blog via searching the net and I have to say. A Gigantic Thank you, I believed that your article was extremely informative I will revisit to see what additional great information I can recieve here.

  • A lot of whatever you claim happens to be supprisingly precise and it makes me wonder why I had not looked at this in this light before. This piece really did switch the light on for me as far as this particular issue goes. However there is one factor I am not too comfy with and while I try to reconcile that with the actual main theme of the position, allow me see just what all the rest of the subscribers have to say.Nicely done.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →