rebelling against low expectations

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done is Suffer Faithfully


The hardest thing I’ve ever done probably isn’t what you expect.

In fact, it wasn’t doing anything. And it was not doing something that was so hard.

The question I had to answer was: how do you respond when you can’t do the things you think God has called you to do?

Stopped by Tendinitis

Earlier this spring, I developed tendinitis in both my arms from doing two things I loved – playing the piano and writing.

At first, I thought that if I merely stopped those activities, in a week or so, all would be well and I could resume everything as normal.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, it went on and on for months, the pain in my arms keeping me from doing those things I loved and felt called by God to do.

I didn’t understand. I was trying to do hard things for God. Why was I being stopped? Why didn’t He take it away?

I prayed a lot. I cried a lot.

In fact, I still do.

Because, even as I write this, I struggle with these limitations. They’re better, due to months of physical therapy, and I can do more, but I haven’t been able to “resume everything as normal.”

And I still don’t always understand. Not only why God allowed it, but why He allows certain trials in the lives of His sons and daughters.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I might not even be the best person to write this article.

All I know is what I’ve learned from this struggle.

That no matter what you feel called to do, your greatest calling is to pursue Jesus.

Going through this forced me to draw closer to Jesus. I learned more about God’s love and faithfulness. I felt His presence, knew He understood my pain—both physical and emotional—and even though He wasn’t removing it immediately, He knew.

He cared. Not once did He let me down or leave me alone.

It might sound crazy, but even though these months have been difficult, I wouldn’t trade them for months where all was perfect and sunny.

The Hard Thing of Finding Joy in Pain

I had to make a choice to reach out to Him, and find joy every day in everything. That’s what was so hard. You see, I had an idea in my mind of what my hard things were “supposed” to look like.

I never thought that not doing something could be so very, very difficult.

The hard thing God called me to do these past months wasn’t writing a book, or putting on a concert to raise money for a cause, or even learning how to do small hard things cheerfully. It was to stop doing so much for Him, and learn how to simply be with Him.

And I believe during this time, He was preparing me to do bigger, harder things that I might not have been able to do if I hadn’t learned this.

So, my advice to you is, in the midst of doing big things for God, stop and choose to draw closer to Him. It might not seem difficult, or impressive to others, but it is the most worthwhile hard thing you could ever do.

All the big things we do mean nothing if we aren’t engaged in a passionate pursuit of the One we’re doing them for.

Even though during that time I wasn’t able to do the things I loved, I still had the One I loved.

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” – Psalm 63:3-4

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  • Sara,
    I am so glad that you wrote this. I can remember the time that I lost my ability to dance. It was soul crushing to know how to do something, yet to physically not be to. I am praying for you. Keep fighting

    • Eliza, your comment truly touched my heart! I am so, so very sorry that you have gone through such a struggle. I understand “soul crushing.” It was so difficult when I felt God asking me, “Do you love me enough, that you will still be joyful even if you can’t do what you live, breath and love?” I am incredibly blessed that I can still do those things to a degree, but it is still painful. I will be praying for you, my friend! Keep holding on to Jesus! Thank you for reading! 🙂

        • I hear you, friend! The amazing thing is that when you say “yes”, you feel Jesus’s love and presence and know that He is worth it all! Thank you for your faithfulness to Jesus! 🙂

    • I’m going through the same thing right now–because of my chronic illness, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’ll have to stop playing softball very soon. It feels like I’m the only one who has ever gone through this, so I’m glad I’m not. =)


  • That would be so hard, as I love piano and writing as well. But yes, we(speaking more for myself) lose the beautiful simplicity of just being with God. And that can sometimes be found in doing hard things. I will be praying for you.

    • Jonathan, thank you so much for reading and for your prayers! I love what you said, “the beautiful simplicity of just being with God.” That is so true, and you said it so well! Thank you for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

  • Thank you Sara. This is really encouraging! Have you been able to learn more about your arthritis? I hope you heal quickly and completely. Keep leaning into Him!

    • Thank YOU, Jason, for reading! Yes, I have learned quite a bit about it, and take certain supplements and vitamins and do exercises and stretchs every day. All of that helps a lot. 🙂 Thank you for your encouragement! 🙂

  • Thank you so much, Sara! This really encouraged me to keep striving after the One who holds my heart. I hope that whatever is going on in your arms will heal soon!

    • Aww, thank you for your encouragement, Anna! Keep chasing after God! He is the true lover of our hearts and the giver of joy! 🙂

  • Wow, I cannot put into words what I would like to say. 🙂 Everyone else said it so well. This exact topic has been on my heart for a long time, as I have been in a very similar place as you and have seen so many people and Rebelutionaries around me in it too. Great article!

    • Oh, I’m so glad it blessed you, Sara! I’m so excited that God is able to use my situation to encourage others! Thank you for reading! Keep chasing after God! 🙂

      BTW, I love your name! 😉

      • God is definitely using you situation to bless me. I knot that it is hard, so hard, but keep fighting the good fight! 😀 Your faith in God in this is an encouragement to me. 🙂

        Thank you! Yours is really beautiful as well, princess of God! 😉

  • Wow Sara! This was really encouraging to me today. I am in a similar situation as you are, so this was a needed reminder for me today. Thank you so much for writing! Fantastic article!

    • Thank you so much, Emma! I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been going through a tough time! Always remember that this is just a season and that God is totally able to redeem it. He can restore all things! I have been so blessed to be able to encourage others because of going through this! I have been truly touched by your comment and others! Thank you so much! 🙂

    • It’s when the tendons in your elbows get little tears and swell. I’ve only heard of getting it from climbing, but I know it hurts a lot and makes grippy handmotions really hard.

      • Exactly! Its pretty much just inflammation in your tendons. You get it from over- working your tendons, like I did from doing so much piano playing and writing at the same time. And don’t feel bad, Dan, for not knowing what it was…. its not something people know a lot about. 🙂 And thanks so much for taking the time to read it!!!! It means SO MUCH to me! 🙂

        • Ok, if I got tendinitis, I would not be able to do anything I want to. Why? Music is pretty much my whole life besides Jesus. I even play music at church for Jesus. I feel so bad for you Sara. This article was fun to read. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

          • I know what you mean, Dan! Music makes your heart come alive. 🙂 And thank you for your encouragment! That’s so great you’re using your talent as a ministry! What instruments do you play? And on a more practical note, I would recommend doing hand and arm streches just because you must use them so much. I’m sure Google would have some examples of correct stetches. Just a thought, because I most certainly hope you never do get it!

            Thank you for taking the time to read it…I had fun writing it! 🙂

          • I play piano for church, take lessons, and do jazz for school and state, I play tuba for school, and I am teaching myself guitar using the app Yousition. Yeah, I usually do hand stretches after I do a song on piano.

          • Wow, that’s quite an impressive list! And that’s great you’re already doing the stretches. 🙂

          • Just the piano. 🙂 I love it so much!!! I have actually been giving lessons for several months now, which has been fun. It’s great to watch my students advance and learn how to play. 🙂 I’ve always wanted to learn guitar and violin though. Maybe someday. 🙂

  • Wow, thanks Sara! This was just what I needed right now. My brother has AFM (a form of myelitis) and he goes for physical therapy several times a week. So obviously I’m not quite in your shoes, but I can see a little into it, and that plus other factors have given me quite a 2016. Thank you SO much for this encouragement!! (You have no idea how much the articles on The Reb help me!!!)

    • Oh, Angela, thank YOU!!! I feel so humbled that God would be able to use my story to encourage others!!!! I’m sorry to hear that about your brother! I will be praying for him! I know how difficult physical therapy can be, but I’m SO grateful for it! It really helped me.

      And I know… The Reb is amazing!!! It has encouraged me so much as well! 🙂 Thank you for reading! 🙂

      • Thanks so much Sara! We’ve come face to face with how much prayer can do lately, and that really means a lot! (And no prob. I always love reading good articles)

  • Sara…I was so blessed by this article! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it. I love how you said it: “Even though during that time I wasn’t able to do the things I loved, I still had the One I loved.”The Lord has been teaching me a similar lesson as our family has faced some hardships over the last couple years. One Scripture that He has always used to encourage me is Isaiah 63:9: “In all their distress He too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.”
    Again, thank you SO much for this encouragement…it really meant a lot to me!

    • Savannah, thank YOU for taking the time to read it! My heart is so full and I feel so very humbled that God would use my story to touch and encourage others! I pray that God showers you and your family with blessings and His love, and does more then you could ever ask or imagine!

      Wow, what a beautiful and encouraging verse! I love the book of Isaiah! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • That no matter what you feel called to do, your greatest calling is to pursue Jesus.

    Yeah! I forget that so many times. I keep thinking and stressing over life’s future circumstances and forget how I’m supposed to serve God faithfully in every next immediate activity. Thanks so much, Sara.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read it, Trent! And I understand….I do the same thing! 🙂 I love what you said, “…I’m supposed to serve God faithfully in every next immediate activity.” So true!

  • This post was so encouraging – a friend and I were discussing some of the very same things last night, helping me emotionally sort through issues and help me focus on what I know is true. And what you said – and what God has been reminding me so often the past little while – is so true:

    “All the big things we do mean nothing if we aren’t engaged in a passionate pursuit of the One we’re doing them for.”

    Thank you for serving us with your writing!

    • Oh, I’m so glad it encouraged you, Amanda! I love it when it seems like God is telling you something over and over again, in your conversations, what you read etc. 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to read it, my friend! It means so much to me! 🙂

  • Wow this was such an inspiring post. Thanks so much for sharing Sara. My best friend also struggled with tendinitis from playing harp and she couldn’t play at all for years. So I kinda know what that is and how it affects you. Praise God that He can grow you through it!

    • Ashley, thank you so much for your encouragement, and for taking the time to read it! I hope your friend is doing better! I can imagine that was really hard for her. 🙁 I’m so amazed at how God is able to use even things like this to bring Him glory! 🙂

      • Yeah the Lord taught me the same lesson through completely different circumstances last year. “Suffer faithfully.” It gave me more insight into what Jesus Christ experienced in order to set us free.

        • Amen! I’m sorry you had to go through it, but I’m SO glad you chose to use to draw closer to Jesus! Thank you, Louis, for your faithfulness to Him!

  • Fantastic share Sara. While we should be filled with joy and expectancy about God’s power and grace, we also have to understand the sorrow that comes with the Cross — and that sorrow is sometimes in the form of apparent “unanswers” to prayer — or at least in the way we define an answer. Keeping our eye on Jesus is the prize we ought to never lose sight of!

  • Love your article Sara.Sorry that you are having to go through that right now, but remember….God has a reason for everything He does. Lovely written article.

    • Yes!!! That’s so true! He has been teaching me that so much these past months! Thank you for taking the time to read it, Lydia!!! It means so much to me! 🙂

  • This is a great example of a teen doing hard things for God!! Pursuing him through the trials. Thank you, thank you. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read it, Erica! It means so much to me! 🙂

      I hope you’re having a fabulous day! 🙂

  • @sarabarratt:disqus This was such a rich blessing to read! Thank you for sharing your heart; and the wondrous, simplistic beauty of drawing near to the Lord. “All the big things we do mean nothing if we aren’t engaged in a passionate pursuit of the One we’re doing them for.” Yes, this illustrates in bold, vivid color how only ‘one thing is needful…’ {Luke 10:42}.

  • Awesome! I think everything you said is really awesome! I also struggle(d) with this feeling of ambition that sometimes steals all the energy in me for anything else. So much so it’s difficult to sleep because I’m thinking about all the work I could be doing, how much more holy I could be, how more loving I could be, how I can be a better servant. And a lot of that was just pressure I put on myself, but it made it difficult to sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary, because I was distracted with much serving like Martha (Luke 10:38-42 ESV). Thanks for sharing. Much love, Collins.

    • Wow. Collins, your comment touched my heart! Thank you so much for sharing your struggle. I can totally relate! I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one who stays awake at night making mental lists. 🙂 So, thank you for being willing to share. The story of Mary and Martha has been a much needed lesson to me time and again. The most incredible thing, however, is that once I quiet my heart to simply be with God, He reveals His presence and gives me such indescribable peace. Then I wonder why I would ever want to spend my time doing anything else! We serve a truly amazing God!

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my article and comment! It means so much to me! God bless!

By Sara Starkey
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 →