rebelling against low expectations

Why Do Hard Things?


Don’t miss out on the dozens of blog posts linked on the sidebar. This blast-from-the-past is an important reminder of the biblical basis for doing hard things. Check out the original post and three others in the series here.

We’ve all heard people say that God wants us “on fire” for Him. Maybe your youth pastor has talked about being “sold out” for Jesus or a conference speaker has challenged you to serve God with “total abandon.”

We’re used to that kind of talk. It’s almost cliché.

But has anyone ever told you that God commands you to do hard things? For some reason that sounds more extreme. Being “on fire” or “sold out” for God sound like positive emotional states where nothing can really get to us. Even serving God with “total abandon” doesn’t make us feel uncomfortable as long as we leave it general and vague. But “do hard things” sounds so — well, hard.

We don’t like hard things in our society, especially as teens under the influence of the Myth of Adolescence. We avoid hard things as much as possible. Unfortunately (or should we say, fortunately), there’s no avoiding them in the Bible.

Hard Things in the Bible

All of God’s commands in Scripture are hard. Of course, our tendency is to just say that God’s commands aren’t “easy” or that it’s only by His grace that we can obey any of them — and both of those statements are 100 percent true — but why can’t we ever come out and say that God’s commands are hard? When Christ commands us to love our enemies, why can’t we just call it what it is?

Everything God commands is hard. Repenting is hard. Forgiving is hard. Turning the other cheek is hard. Overcoming sin in our lives is hard. Honoring our parents is hard. Sharing the gospel is hard. Reading our Bibles is hard. We could go on.

Part of our hesitation to call things hard can be that we’re afraid to come across as unspiritual. After all, if we’re truly “on fire” for Jesus, shouldn’t it be easy for us to read our Bibles every day, say no to sin, and share the gospel with others?

But when we think that way we’re missing something huge that God wants to teach us about personal growth — and that’s what we want to talk about in this post.

The Way We Grow

In James 1:2, we’re told to consider it “pure joy” when we’re faced with challenges, trials, and obstacles, because they test our faith and makes us stronger. Think about that. The God who created you and loves you cares about your growth — and the way He has designed you to grow is through challenges.

It’s just like the way your muscles grow stronger when you work out and the way your brain grows new neurons when it is challenged. You grow stronger, in both character and competence, when you do hard things.

In order to do hard things we need to get over the idea that God’s love means He wants us to go through life with as little effort or discomfort as possible. This is similar to the mistaken notion that we don’t need to change because God loves us just the way we are. God does love us just the way we are, but He also loves us too much to leave us the way we are. He wants us to grow.

Of course, none of this is to say that God wants us to live joyless and pain-filled lives, but it’s a joy that’s rooted in more than our temporary circumstances, and at times pain is necessary in order to gain something of greater value.

A Radical Argument

The Rebelution makes what sounds like a radical argument. It’s not just saying that hard things happen and that you can benefit from them. It’s not even just saying that you have the ability to do hard things. It’s telling you that you should do hard things because it’s the best and only way to experience true growth in your life.

Can you think of any period of growth in your life (as a Christian, student, athlete, musician, etc…) that didn’t involve effort and even some level of discomfort? The truth is that all growth involves discomfort. Think of growing pains.

These are not a new ideas. We’re don’t want to reinvent truth. But we do want our generation rediscover what has always been true — and one thing that has always been true is that in order to grow we must do hard things. We must challenge and stretch ourselves, step outside our comfort zones and do something difficult. It’s how we’ve grown before, and it’s the only way we’ll grow for the rest of our lives.

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About the author

Brett Harris

is co-founder of and co-author of Do Hard Things, along with his twin brother, Alex. He is married to his best friend, Ana, who blogs at He is the founder of the Young Writers Workshop — an ongoing coaching program for serious writers.


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  • Thanks so much! You guys are really inspiring! I got the inspiration to start a Bible/book study with my class based on your second book, Start Here. I’ve never led anything like this before but I’m starting to understand how this is going to teach me hard things. I enjoy public speaking, but I’m still not sure how it will all work. Prayers would be very much appreciated. Thank you so much for what you do!

  • What you guys are saying is so incredibly true, and I think it applies to everyone, not just teens. I am a mom and started to read this blog in order to help my son. I am finding so much that encourages me in my walk. Thanks

  • Another reason for doing hard things now as a young person is – hey – you’ve actually got the time at the moment!

    There is a time and season for everything… (Ecclesiastes) When you’re single it’s easier to travel, easier to take a gap year, easier to find the money to try something hard. When you’re married with teens of your own you often don’t have the freedom, the time (or the finances).

    If you don’t know where to start it might pay to make your own secret “do hard things” list. A bit like those “bucket” lists oldies make.

    As you make the list remember that the term “hard” is very personal. Everyone’s unique – with different strengths and weaknesses. What’s hard for one person might be easy for another.

    A “do hard things”goal that has a significant impact on others is admirable if you need a challenge – like – “I’m going to fill up a sea container with secondhand goods for the poor and send it to Haiti” is admirable.

    But challenging a long-standing habit or hangup is just as admirable – so if your hard thing is to overcome the demon of anorexia… or feel relaxed about using a urinal around other men… that’s just as important.

    Our Creator knows us through and through – and He knows how “hard” something is for us. When you attempt something that is hard for you however… even if you “fail” the first time or have to have multiple shots at it… it builds tenacity & fortitude & character in you. And that’s something you can draw on in the future when you tackle other hard things.

    A while back I wrote a fiction ebook called The Codetalkers – and one of the characters in it (Zac) is on a wilderness trek and he’s finding it easy going until he attempts to cross a rope bridge across a chasm – which is a hard thing for him. Later another character (John) points out how Zac will be able to draw strength from managing to overcome his fear once, and how that next time round it’ll be easier.

    Another reason for making that list, and gradually working through it is that you’ll be able to look back at it – and it’ll help you realize you’ve built spiritual muscle. And realizing that will give you courage for the next “hard thing” and the next “harder thing”and so on…

  • I do hear being on fire for God, and while when it was first used it may have been powerful, it’s not any more. It seems that when you go to a concert or a youth retreat its all about worshiping God, but the same kids that are leaders who are the ‘examples’ of being on fire for God are talking about inappropriate things with the younger kids. We need to call it something else. The Christians in China don’t call each other Christains anymore, they call each other a followers of Christ. WE SHOULD BE CHRIST FOLLOWERS AND NOT CHRIST ACTORS, WE NEED TO OBEY AND NOT PRETEND, WE ARE CHILDREN OF THE ONE TRUE KING.

  • Thanks for this! It’s great to have a reminder sometimes. This is all so true! Y’all keep doing what y’all are doing! 🙂

  • This is so true. God called me to step out and start a prayer group, and it has been quite hard. But I know that through it God has been moving in my own life as well as other peoples. And that he will be faithful to complete this work he began in me. Thank you Alex and Brett for helping me tremendously

  • I really like this post. It’s just so fresh and completely absent of all those clichés. It makes me want to do hard things and grow. And I love how it points out that we should call it what it is and admit that it’s hard. No ifs ands or buts.

    I’m starting college at 17 and this is a great reminder that hard things will help me GROW into the person God wants me to be, which is of course the person I want to be.

  • Thanks for reminding us why we do hard things. I needed that! I have plenty of growing to do.
    God bless the Rebelution!

  • Thanks for another awesome post! Many times we have to go back to these kinds of fundamental questions: Why do hard things? It’s these kinds of questions that remind us of the true purpose for which we are following Christ.

    As the last section of the post stated, any period of growth takes effort. For me it took two-year long struggle to show my real need for Christ. But through all of these hard times, the effort we take to submit our lives to Christ’s will can bring results that we would never have even dreamed. Over the past year, submitting to His will and seeking to make my life resemble His has brought all kinds of wisdom and humility into my life.

    While I wouldn’t consider a two-year struggle a desirable “hard thing,” the same level of work it takes to get OUT of a place can be the same amount that it takes to get IN to the work that God has for us to do.

    May God bless each of us as we reaffirm our commitment to do hard things for His glory!

  • Wow. I’ve never really heard it put that way… thanks. I agree, sharing your faith is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. (Being shy helps with that, too. I’m not great at talking to strangers.)
    I’m posting this from Sucre, Bolivia. I am on a missions trip with my family here. Wow. Is it ever an experience and a half!! (Esspecially when you’re not great at spanish!) Just reading this made me see the reason why I am here, in a whole new way!!
    Thank you for another great post!!

  • Thanks so much! It feels good to come out and say that this Christian life is HARD!!! Why can’t we just humble ourselves enough to admit it?

  • That is a good point! I have to often force my self to read my Bible, it has never really come naturally. Although people might say things like they’re “on fire” or “surrendered” it is so hard to be a Christian. Good things don’t come easily, they come with hard work. Same thing with God things.

  • Hello,
    This is the first time I left a comment here. Just want to say that I am glad to see this blog up and running again. I would like to tell you about my older sister. She has Chronic Fatigue and knows what it means to do Hard Things. Since she is unable to travel she made a doll that does her traveling for her. Through a suggestion from a missionary friend, she has started a website of her doll and it’s cousins who are in Indonsia as missionaries. My sister’s website is Thank You, Ben

By Brett Harris
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 →