Stop trying to be tough

Written by Josh Miller
Published on January 22, 2021

As I began my journey into adulthood, I think I subconsciously hoped to one day become an expert in pain avoidance, to deftly navigate life’s circumstances unscathed, untouched, undamaged. It had been subtly ingrained in me over the years that because our hope was solely in the kingdom of God and the life to come, that being hurt, shaken, or broken by things in this life seemed all too human and less-than. I lived my life as if true spiritual mastery and maturity were to be found in complete detachment from this life and its struggles. I even found this mindset slowly creeping into my parenting as I unfairly assumed the responsibility for protecting my children and family from their own hurts and failures.

But after a few thousand disappointments and a couple of personal crash-and-burns, I came to the realization that I had not become any better at preventing pain, for myself or anyone else. So instead, I found myself looking to numb it, hide it, or even deny it was there at all. The pain itself seemed like some sort of personal failure or weakness, some misstep I must have taken along the way, or the result of something I had clung too closely to. I believed and communicated that a true soldier in the army of God should be living so deeply “on mission” that personal hurts and pains should be ignored or forgotten for the sake of the greater cause. 

And to be completely honest, even now, this mindset can feel both crazy and real to me at the same time. There’s an internal war that’s being fought around offering myself grace for my humanity and the call to be something more, something stronger. 

There’s a pressure to be joyful even when I’m sad.

There’s a pressure to be tough even when I hurt.

There’s a pressure to appear confident even when I’m unsure.

There’s a pressure to be fearless when I’m truly afraid.

There’s a pressure to be someone more than I really am.

But when I stop for a moment, I’m reminded that this pressure is not a true reflection of the heart of God. And as I think about the broken and hurting people throughout Scripture, I don’t find a God that tells people to toughen up. Instead, I see a God that invites people to come in closer, just as they are. 

“Is anyone crying for help? God is listening,

ready to rescue you.

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;

if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.”

Psalm 34:17-18 MSG

We’re only days into 2021, and it’s already brought moments of disappointment, turmoil, anxiety, and grief. And even if this somehow transforms into an incredible year, it will still not be without its hurts. Even if I miraculously became the greatest parent of all time I still would not be able to prevent all the hurts and mistakes that my children will experience this year. So more important than learning how to avoid pain this year is learning how to process our pain in a healthy way. More important than learning how to protect ourselves and our families better is to grow in our willingness to draw near to the protection and comfort of our loving God. This is what spiritual strength and leadership actually look like.

So if you’re hurting today, that’s ok. 

So am I.

We’re allowed to hurt.

We’re allowed to grieve.

We’re allowed to be sad and disappointed.

We are human

But let’s stop, just for just a moment.

Let’s take a deep breath.

And let’s recognize that God is right here with us. 

He’s not stressed, afraid, or overwhelmed.

He’s not forgotten you. He’s not given up on you.

And regardless of what 2021 brings,

We don’t face it alone.

Live perfectly imperfect

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Josh Miller

Josh Miller has been a musician, filmmaker, restaurant manager, songwriter, barista, worship leader, pastor, husband, and father, and is still trying to figure out who the heck he is. He and his wife Deven live in Plano, TX with their two young boys.

Read more about Josh

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