rebelling against low expectations

What practical hard things can young teenagers do?


MAX WRITES: How can a younger teen like me, who’s only 13, make a difference in the world and accomplish hard things? I haven’t even entered high school yet! I just love to hear all these amazing stories about different teens doing hard things, and yet I ask myself, how can I do that?

It seems impossible and I just feel confused and disappointed about myself. I hear all these great ideas about doing wonderful, hard things. But what can I do to change our sad, sad world today? Is praying and hoping I can do hard things eventually all I can do today? I feel like I could and should be making a difference but I don’t know how.

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  • Max, don’t worry, you can still do hard things too! I’m even younger than you are! There are some different types of hard things. The most basic and practical for younger people, is family. By that, I mean being kind and playing with/helping out little siblings (if you have any), helping your mom clean or cook, and just little things like that. As for helping out the community, it depends on your resources and circumstances. Do you go to public or private school? Be friendly with the people who don’t seem to have friends, and be a good representative of Christ to your friends. If you play music, playing for the residents at a nearby nursing home is almost always a good idea.

    Sometimes hard things are just persevering in whatever stage of life you’re at. Moses, Joshua, and Samuel were all people who went through a lot of training as young people before they actually got to do the hard things they are famous for. They had to learn a lot and prove their faith before they were entrusted with leading the people of Israel. So, there are times we just have to be patient. Don’t forget that the small, everyday things matter too.

    “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

  • Max, when I was thirteen I was helping my family, managing our garden and taking care of our chickens. I did school and I was starting to compete in speech and debate. None of those things might seem like a big deal, but they were all hard for me. And by being faithful in each of them it prepared me to step into some of the bigger, more visible hard things I did later in my teen years.

    Here’s the thing… If I hadn’t been doing small hard things at 13-years-old, I’d never have been ready to do bigger hard things at 16 or 17. If I’d allowed myself to get distracted with unimportant things, I wouldn’t have been prepared to serve God in important ways later on.

    The small everyday hard things of obeying God, serving your family, working hard, and stepping outside your comfort zone are important for their own sake — but they are also important practice for the future.

    Behind every great accomplishment you ever hear about there are months and years of quiet preparation and hard work. That’s where you are right now. You’re doing the hard work of being faithful right where you. And faithfulness in one season prepares you to step into the next season with strength. =)

  • Doing hard things doesn’t have to be doing big hard things. Sometimes it’s the little things that count the most. It may be that right now you’re in a time of preparation. I was in that boat for a few years. My form of doing hard things was being diligent in school, helping around the house, and growing in my knowledge of Jesus. Look for the small things you can do to make a difference. Helping a around the house, paying attention to school even if you don’t like it.

    What people don’t often realize is it’s often times the little things that make the most difference. If you have siblings, take time to play with them. At church ask if you can help in Sunday school. Even if the little things like opening the door for people or saying hello to the new kid.

    I hope this helps!

  • Your faithfulness is never wasted. Maybe your hard things are boring, but God is getting honor when you do them well.

  • Just about anything. I`m 13 too and for me its being nice to my brothers, being polite, etc. etc. It doesn`t have to be hard. The sequel to Do Hard Things, Start Here, has some great answers on this topic.

  • Hey Max 🙂
    There are some great comments here! I hope they are an encouragement to you. I want to echo what Brett said about doing small, seemingly mundane hard things. If we aren’t willing to do the the small stuff, we won’t be ready or able to do the big hard things either.

    Honest moment here, I woke up today and stared at the daunting, (and growing) pile of clean laundry that has been mounting up in my room for over a week, waiting to be put away. Sounds dumb, right? Well, for me anyways, actually deciding to put away my laundry is definitely a “hard thing”. See, it’s things like that which God can use in our lives to mold our attitudes to be more like Christ’s. So maybe your hard thing isn’t great, grand, and glorious, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important, and it certainly doesn’t mean God can’t be glorified through it. Quite the opposite, actually. So I don’t know that my little story really helps you at all, but hey 🙂

  • I agree with what everybody said already. I’d just like to add a couple things. Doing hard things doesn’t have to be JUST small things. I think one of the most important things to do is to make yourself available to God. Whatever HE calls you to do you should do. Sometimes it can be radical, sometimes it can be obvious, but listen to God. Even if you don’t hear him calling you specifically to take action, the Bible has a lot of commands that are for everyone. Living how God wants you to is also a “hard thing”. Just some thoughts.

  • I have been where you are very recently. I read Do Hard Things when I was thirteen or had just turned fourteen, and I said,” Well, this is wonderful, but how the heck to I do big hard things? I can’t even make it outside the blackberry farm right now, I’m so swamped!”(yes, my family owns a blackberry farm). So I- somewhat unconsciously- worked on little hard things like cooking and doing laundry for my family.

    Only recently has God called me to a larger hard thing, starting a knitting ministry at my church. It hasn’t been easy. But I can’t help but wonder if God gives us the small hard things in preparation for the big hard things.

    I understand your frustration and the seeming inaction. God will send you your hard thing in time- His time. Pray, and remember this verse:

    “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10

    Be faithful with little, and God will eventually send you much.

  • Your example alone for Christ can be a wonderful thing itself! Other people see what you do and therefore you may become their example. To change this “sad, sad world” you can be a witness for Christ. Share the plan of salvation to the lost. You see, even though you may not feel like you’re doing much today, if you live according to God’s word, you will get rewarded in Heaven!

    Also, what you do doesn’t necessarily have to be “hard,” although doing hard things is great! It’s how you do what you do, and with what attitude you do it, that matters. It’s your example that counts.

    “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” ~2 Timothy 4:12

    Even going to a nursing home and ministering or even just encouraging people could be something you could do to make a difference. Do you realize that when you fulfill a small task like putting away laundry, or washing dishes, that you are making a difference?! You are being a blessing to your parents! Although this may seem small and nothing “amazing” it is something.

    Write a card to a grandparent or to a discouraged friend. This could make be an encouragement to them! Or as a challenge–do something to show that you love your enemies.

    “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” ~Matthew 5:44
    I hope that this has been helpful! 😉

  • Jenna’s comment is spot-on, especially quoting Timothy, a part of scripture that tackles this exact question! 🙂

    To elaborate on some of these points:

    1) We all have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. You talk to people — at school, a store, and so on. Let us approach everyone with the desire to contribute and build them up, in the process reflecting God’s love!

    2) What are your current responsibilities? School is certainly important, so put your all into it — working hard, learning the material, and scoring well. In additional time you have, try to find ways to acquire new skills. Programming is becoming increasingly important, as well as increasingly accessible (e.g., you can just google for tutorials online).

    3) Always be on the lookout for opportunities to serve and aspire towards new things that advance God’s kingdom.

    There are a lot of things we can all do in our own “back yard” — God has put us in this specific situation for a reason, and through prayer and reading God’s word we can be in constant communication with Him in order to hear where He wants to direct us!

  • I thought about writing a long comment here, but there’s already such wonderful advice I can’t think of anything else to add! =) Just do everything you do, little or big, to glorify God and seek Him with your life and God will guide your steps! =)
    Thanks for being an example and encouragement to the rest of us with your passion to serve the Lord!!

  • Hi Max. 🙂
    I understand where you are, because I’m a very similar position. I know it probably seems like you’ve heard about the “small hard things” a billion times by now, and those small hard things can just get downright boring. Sometimes washing the dishes and doing the laundry don’t seem that rewarding, especially when it’s not even acknowledged. But when I look at these things, I see that through loving my family like Christ as much as I can, I’m making a difference. It may not seem like it, but you are too. When I take the time to make a sandwich for my brother who is upstairs studying for a college test, I’m loving, and doing something that I never had to do. Sometimes doing hard things means doing unexpected things, like going out of your way to help somebody out, instead of just ignoring the fact that they need help. For me, doing hard things often looks like loving like Jesus to the best of my ability, to watch what I say, how I act, and always observing to see what I can do to love others like Jesus would. And to reflect Him in everything I do. I fail a lot. But when you try your best at something, and you’re determined, people will notice. Whether you know they do or not.
    A lot of the time for teens, doing hard things comes in the form of Algebra, Biology or some other subject. For me it would be Trig, Biology, History, and Literature. Maybe it’s to start faithfully doing your schoolwork or homework without your parents having to tell you to.
    Or maybe if you look around you’ll find that there is a big hard thing that God might be calling you to do in your area, if so, go for it!

    Luke 16:10 says this:

    “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.

    Strive to be trustworthy and honest with all that you’re given. Including opportunities to do hard things. Because when people realize that you’re always looking to lend a hand, and always striving to do your best, you may end up getting more and more opportunities to do the big things. Sometimes I like to think of it this way:

    “He who is faithful in little, will also be faithful in much.”

    So be faithful in doing to small hard things! Work hard, and be determined! That’s when you’ll find that you have the ability to do the big hard things, because a lot of the time God uses the small hard things to prepare us for the big hard things. 🙂

  • This is a great discussion! Seriously, the first hard thing I took on was consistently making my bed. Little things will add up into big things! For lots of historical characters (Brother Andrew and Milton Hershey for example) they did little hard things as teens, and those mundane, little hard things turned into huge hard things later in their lives. We may not do some huge hard thing as teens, but the foundation we lay now will be handy later on!

  • “Is praying and hoping I can do hard things eventually all I can do today?” I’d just like to remind you, Max, that praying in and of itself is a very hard thing which you can do at the age of 13 which can bear big results in the world now. The Bible actually states it as a command, not a suggestion.

  • I really agree with what Louis said. Praying is a huge thing!!!! At the same time, don’t feel like it’s all you can do. I think we can sometimes feel that there’s so much evil in the world and ask, “How can I really make a difference?” It makes us a bit paralyzed. I think this is true with sin too. When we’re constantly focused on the problem, we lose sight of the solution. We already have the solution. The solution is Jesus. I would encourage you to think and definitely pray about where God has called you. What are you interested in? It can be something as simple as “I like writing, so I’m going to try to write a book.” That book might never get published, but it would be a first step for you to learn to write so that later you could get a published book.

    Writing is not special in any way. You might like building things, drawing, making videos etc. whatever it is, you have a gift and through prayer, God can help you find it and make use of it.

  • Something my youth pastor told me once was “ministry is about being faithful in the little things.” I find this really helpful to remember, especially at times when I don’t feel like doing the little things. And, often, the small things God calls us to do at one time (even if it’s just something as simple as sweeping the floor) prepare us for the bigger things God will call us to later, even if we don’t understand how.

  • There are hard things you can do in everyday life. Sit with someone at lunch whos alone, stand up for someone that gets picked on. There are lots of things you can do just keep your eyes out and listen to God

  • Good questions. One thing that I have had to learn is that it is easy to get wrapped up in wanting to do huge projects. Start a business, a ministry, or something like that. But God has laid on my heart that I need to focus on the short term goals that I’ve been given. And that is what I would suggest to you. If it’s school, a friendship, or building a stronger bond with your parents, do that and honor God with what you do. Sometimes the hard thing is changing your attitude about something. Praying for you!

  • There is so much good advice I don’t even know if I need to post this! I have struggled with that as well. I agree with everything said. For me, the thing I have been challenging myself with lately is reaching out to lonely people. In my homeschool co-op and in my youth group, I have been more conscious of people sitting by themselves. For people to feel included and loved will make a huge impact on their lives. It is hard to break away from your friends sometimes, but Jesus calls us to love the least of these. Its not a huge thing, but it can be hard. I sometimes feel awkward just going up to someone I am unfamiliar with but I tell myself that they aren’t going to think to themselves “I can’t believe she has the nerve to come up and talk to me!” 😛 Hope this helps!

rebelling against low expectations

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