Did your parents tell you, "Life is hard"? Count yourself lucky!

Many experts think that phrase should be banished forever because how can a child or young person develop a positive self-image if they get fed discouragement?

This theory was not always considered mainstream. When I was growing up, for example, we youngsters understood the meaning of "Life is hard" because adults specialized in using it when we came with complaints. "You didn't get as big a cookie as he did?" or "So you didn't get the grade you thought you deserved?" Then came an answer with a refrain that seldom varied: "Too bad. Well, life is hard, get used to it."  

Don't get me wrong. Most adults I knew, like my parents, were kind and loving. Teachers might be strict, but we knew they cared about us. Grandparents, neighbors and every grownup I knew seemed to think it their duty to give us kids a needed realistic perspective on life. That's why we so often heard, "If you expect life to be easy, you're in for a big let-down." 

Both my husband and I were used to it. We knew our parents and all the rest spoke out of their experiences during hard times. But my groom and I were convinced our love would conquer all.

No wonder we just knew our life together would be pure joy. 

A few years later life handed us a huge object lesson 

Blog . Burning barn. 1.21By this time we had discovered that love did not rule out disappointments and setbacks. Then came one that hit with no warning.

Picture my husband and me in our old Midwestern farmhouse on that freezing cold night of New Year's Day. At almost bedtime 
our nearest neighbor called us. In a tense voice he said, "Look out your side window."

That's when we saw the flames blazing across the roof of our old red wooden barn, which painted the sky bright orange. My husband and I looked at each other, each with same thought: The cows! Can we get the cows out in time?

We grabbed coats and boots and skittered down the ice-coated drive area to the barn. Flames already were bursting through between the boards of the barn's side walls. The cows! Somehow we managed to push our terrified animals out the door in time and they slid and stumbled their way onto the concrete feeding floor alongside the barn. 

There, cows, young calves and awkward "teenage cows" huddled together in a sad clump, mooing and bawling in fear. 

Once they were safe my husband led me to a place out of the wind and we stood there, shaking with cold as we watched our picturesque old red barn burn. Five minutes later the engine of the volunteer Fire Department from the nearest town arrived. The firefighters kept watch until the fire burned itself out.  

Several times I had run to the house and checked on our sleeping little girls, thanking God that they slumbered through all the sirens and shouts.  

By 2 a.m. the crowd had gone home, taking with them their floodlights. Before long the cattle seemed to settle down, too. Quiet descended like a shroud. 

My husband and I staggered back to the house, numb with exhaustion and cold. We two sat at our kitchen table holding hands and trying not to give way to tears as we replayed the scary night just lived and prayed for guidance.  

We knew we wouldn't sleep. We also knew daylight would force us to take some kind of action.

What now?

First light revealed the pile of rubble where our barn used to be. Next to it stood our shivering herd of Holsteins--and it was milking time.

The thing about dairy cows is they can't be put off. They had to be milked twice a day. And what about feed? Both cows and calves needed to eat, but all the feed, hay and straw stored in that old barn--with its old, probably faulty wiring--was lost.

What were we to do?

Once again the phone rang and it was the same neighbor who alerted us to the fire. Now he kindly offered the use of an empty shed to shelter our cows from the weather and also would supply hay until we could locate a supply to purchase. Thank God!

After a hasty breakfast my husband and a helper herded the animals the almost one-quarter mile up the road to that farm. My husband, always good at improvising, figured out how to set up the milking equipment he rescued from fire. He and our neighbor agreed on the rent we would pay for as long as we needed his shed and also how to track the hay expense.

With that in place we knew we could make it. 

Finding blessing in the loss  

This may sound strange, but later we came to understand that we had a built-in advantage when tragedy struck. The fire didn't destroy us precisely because our parents harped on "Life is hard. Get used to it." 

That old-fashioned perspective enabled us--despite our fears and uncertainty-- to look at the fire as, "Well, that sort of thing happens in life." We prayed and held each other up and got through dark moments. Day by day we coped and it took everything we had in us at the time.

As we rebuilt over the months that followed we grew stronger, individually and as a couple. We saw clearly how God guided us and gave us strength, so our faith grew, too. 

Now we took a softer view of our parents, a.k.a., the "crepe-hangers." Before, we assumed they simply didn't understand that with a good attitude and overflowing love and by using our brains, we could fend off crises. After the fire we came to understand they spoke timeless truth.

All along they were trying to ensure we would not be crushed by life's ups and downs.

What do today's youngsters need to survive? 

Today we're all about "love," believing that's the way to infuse strength and self-confidence into children and teens. Many grow up hearing, "Look at you!" "You are amazing!" "You are so smart!" "You deserve to be happy!" Teens and young adults hear, "When you find your bliss, your work won't even feel like work," Etc.

Here's a shock: "Bliss" isn't always bliss-full. Finding the "right" work does not ensure you'll never have a frustration or disappointment. The best of times still come with down days sprinkled here and there. Even finding THE perfect love comes with adjustments like each one putting the other one first. (If you find that easy, three cheers for you!) 

Truth is, life is hard and nobody's life is trouble-free. The best job in the best place still frustrates once in awhile. People sometimes let us down because well, every human being is imperfect in one way or another.

All this convinces me it's not a bad thing for children and teens to understand that life comes with joy and pain. Best of all is when they also know deep-down the saving love of Jesus and that he will enable them to survive what comes. That gives them a solid base for building a life.  

Hard times and problems have been the making of many an individual. Those who hang in there grow--and their inner strength grows. The writer of the book of James knew all about that, writing in James 1:2-4.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers [and sisters,] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   NIV

Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes you way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.  NLT

Those verses pretty much say it all, don't they?

Here's to joy in the midst of whatever comes!


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