rebelling against low expectations

What Does Success Look Like?


We recently received a message from a young lady named Victoria who has been working tirelessly to rebel against low expectations and inspire others to do hard things — except that nothing she tries ever succeeds.

She writes, “I have tried and tried to do hard things right where I am but have run full speed into a brick wall everywhere I turn. What am I doing wrong and what do I do next? Maybe you know of others who feel the same way?”

This young lady is not alone. In fact, my wife, Ana, could completely relate. Ana wrote back to Victoria and what she shared was so helpful I asked Victoria for permission to share it here. Stay tuned for more from Ana.

Hi Victoria, this is Ana Harris, Brett’s wife. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

First of all, I can relate to your frustrations. My high school experience was very similar. I understand how difficult it is to feel like you are standing alone and how aggravating it is to be surrounded by lukewarm peers who just don’t seem to get it.

I smiled when you talked about the “whopping four people” in your prayer group. I thought it might encourage you to know that your group was twice as big as the Christian group I started in my high school!

I want to suggest that the solution to your problems might be a change in perspective rather than a change in what you are doing. In other words, maybe you need to look at your situation a little differently and adjust the way you are thinking about doing hard things. Here are some thoughts to consider:

1. God often has a very different definition of success than we do.

Think of Jeremiah the prophet. The notes in my study Bible say this about him: “His messages of repentance were not well recieved. His home town plotted against him, and he endured much persecution in the pursuit of his ministry.”

It goes on: “A faithful preacher, he apparently had only two converts: Baruch, his scribe and Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian eunuch who served the king. These are the only two mentioned in the entire book who respond favorably to Jeremiah’s preaching.”

If that’s not failure, I don’t know what is. He spent his entire life preaching a message of repentance that only two people accepted! And yet he spoke God’s Word. He was faithful in obedience. He feared the Lord more than man and kept on preaching the Truth in the face of much opposition. He didn’t have a successful ministry according to our standards, but he obeyed and this was pleasing to God.

2. There is a bigger picture.

God sees all of history from start to finish. He knows exactly how every little event interacts with every other little event. All of our lives are perfectly orchestrated in his wisdom. And they are just small pieces of a much bigger story— the story of God redeeming his entire creation.

So, it’s important to remember that there is a lot we cannot possibly know about the way our obedience fits into this big plan. Even our small decisions like whether to drive home from youth group now or in fifteen minutes change a great number of things—from who is at the stoplight at what time to whether you are able to answer the phone to who is awake when you get to the house — and those things change a great number of other things and so on.

If these seemingly unimportant actions have such a big impact how much more our small steps of obedience! The point is, God sees a lot more than we do, and it’s impossible for us to understand how many things our little obediences might be impacting.

3. Fruit may come later.

Galatians 6:9 says: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Our job is doing good—obeying God’s commands and being faithful with the gifts he’s given us—whether or not we can see any fruit.

The fruit of our labors doesn’t typically come immediately. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve shared the gospel with unbelievers, and to this day, I do not know if a single one of them has repented and trusted Christ. But I have great hope that my obedience in preaching the Good News mattered and that at some point down the road many of them will turn to the Lord. I may never hear of it but I do not regret sharing the gospel. I obeyed and this pleased the Lord.

In the same way, I do not know how many babies my pro-life t-shirts may have saved or how deeply my smile may have touched the homeless man at the soup kitchen. And you do not know how your example has impacted your friends or how many mountains your prayers did move. I don’t know where the orphans I hugged and held will be in 20 years and you do not know where your little students will be in 20 years. And I’m guessing that Jeremiah, in his “failed” ministry, had no way of knowing that his obedience to God’s calling (in Jeremiah 1) would impact the lives of just about every Christian throughout history and that pastor’s would be preaching from his writings thousands of years later.

The point is, you will see the fruit of all your good works further down the road, if not in this life, certainly in heaven. So, don’t grow weary!

4. God is sanctifying you through these challenges.

God is molding and making you. These challenges are not wasted. They are growing you. One of my favorite lines from Do Hard Things is, “All effort — even failed effort — produces growth.” How true it is! You may not have achieved what you envisioned in each of the “hard things” you set out to do, but God is achieving his purposes with 100% success.

We know that one of these purposes is to conform you into his Son’s image. Romans 8: 28-29 says: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

So there, the Bible tells us that the “good” that all of these challenges are working for is your sanctification — your conformity to the image of Christ.

5. Doing hard things is…hard.

The Rebelution is not primarily about getting others to join a movement or doing big things that get you lots of attention. It’s not mainly about accomplishments and impressive feats. It’s about growing up and obeying Christ now. It’s about being faithful with what’s right in front of us and embracing responsibility. Doing Hard things is hard. You should not be surprised when you run into challenges. You should not be surprised when you face opposition. If it’s not easy, you’re on the right track. This is good! You’re doing hard things!

Well, I hope this encourages you to keep on going. Keep on setting an example. Keep on speaking truth. Keep on loving others. Keep on trying new things. And most of all, keep on seeking the Lord with all your heart and obeying him. Your life will not be wasted.

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About the author

Ana Harris

is the happy wife of Brett Harris and a joyful follower of Jesus Christ. She is currently waging an intense battle with Lyme Disease, but when healthy she loves to worship God through ballet ministry. She has a passion for writing and evangelism.


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  • Spot on! You’re analysis is great. I’m not entirely sure, but I think Brett may have found someone a little out of his league. Please write more soon!

    Success is to be measured not so much by what one has achieved in life, but by the obstacles which one has overcome.
    -Booker T Washington

    Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
    -Winston Churchill

  • Wow, you have no idea how much this post helped me get some things in perspective. I’ve been feeling like I’m running into brick walls with ‘hard things’ too and this whole post was fantastic! Thank you so much!

  • Ana, thanks for this encouraging post. Thanks for the reminder that even when our efforts to serve God don’t seem to have results, we don’t have to get discouraged because God can still use the things we’re doing for His glory.

  • Great post! I look forward to more from Ms. Harris. Ms. Harris, thank you for your example. I read your story in “Start Here” and it really encouraged me. You did what I dream of doing some day. If God wills it, I’m hoping to get involved with a pro-life group this summer. Thank you again.

  • Thank you soo much for posting that, Ana! I thank God that there are people just like me, who are struggling with the same things I am, and they care. Thanks again!


  • My daughter mentioned that this article might be good for me to read. She was right. There is a very understanding and wise heart behind the message of this article. was most helpful at this time in my life.

  • Ana,
    Thank you so much for the encouraging words of wisdom you sent Victoria. Also, thank you for posting this! I (finally) read some of my emails and I feel that God used your words to help me continue doing some hard things in my life. Hard things that haven’t (yet, still praying!) produced fruit or results in my life. Again, thank you so much! I was definetely blessed. Bookmarking this page to read again when I get discouraged! Can’t wait to hear more from you. God bless 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing this! It really encouraged me to keep doing hard things. I’ve tried countless things but all have failed. It seems like I’m the only one who cares. Everyone else just wants to stay in their comfort zones and drift through life. I’m glad there are others who have faced (and are facing) the same challanges I am. Once again, thank you for the encouragement!

  • “The Rebelution is not primarily about getting others to join a movement or doing big things that get you lots of attention. It’s not mainly about accomplishments and impressive feats.”
    Thank you so much for sharing this! This is something I struggled with, I wanted to do something big and (quite honestly) something that would impress people. But the “big” things that I pursued never worked out. God seems to be teaching me to be faithful in those little mundane things, I still hope to do something bigger but until then I must be faithful in the little things.

  • Thanks for the encouragement. If felt hindered so many times and it was really great to hear such wise words to keep my spirits up. Thank you so much!!

  • thank you for this! in my entire life, i’ve been spending almost my whole time failing, specially during high school… i’m tired of the low expectations that had gotten through me. im always a mediocre ones. but God really changed my life. He taught me that i can do all things through him that will give me strength and courage to face mediocrity, fear of failing again… now, i’m on college, (im actually first year), and for me, studying well, sacrificing the right time for my studies, practicing my education, were really hard things for me. they were big mountains that i must face. I really dont use my time with those things, but God changed me… i pray and pray and pray and do it! well, actually i did! now, Im the top 2 of my whole batch on my course! i overcome those hard things and had success, now, im working to be even on top, through God’s will….

  • I especially liked the last point (#5). I think that a Christian’s first step in doing hard things is just acknowledging that doing hard things WILL be hard; once one realizes this, he/she will set himself/herself up for success because they know that they will need determination to accomplish the extraordinary feats they were born to accomplish.

  • God bless you Ana! Your post was just what I needed. Sometimes it does feel like nothing I ever do succeeds, and like all my effort is wasted. Sometimes I wonder how the little hard things I do will ever make a difference, and how much one decision could affect my whole life. I have to keep reminding myself day after day that doing hard things is hard, and that even though I don’t see it just at first, every time I try and please God I grow a little. It is encouraging to know that when we are in God’s will, doing His will, we are succeeding whether the fruit is evident or not. Thanks for a truly uplifting post Ana, I would love to hear more from you!

  • It’s awesome to know I’m not the only one who has great intentions that fail like that. I would be thrilled to have 4 kids in a group with me, Victoria. 🙂 I wanted to start a Bible study at college as a ministry tool and wasn’t even able to get 1 kid to help me with it. Now I’m just looking for other ways to be a witness at school!

By Ana 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 →