Just because it is hard doesn’t mean it’s bad. I heard this expressed recently and it has bounced around in my head since. We struggle with anything we don’t like. That may be understandable but it does not have to be final. We struggle with the tough stuff of life. That may be natural but it does not have to be inviolable. In fact, I think this is a good time to break some patterns and habits that too often devastate our lives and the lives of those we care about. Most of us never set out to fall into a pattern of dealing poorly with the hard stuff of life but here we are. There is certainly ample guidance from the Bible to help us break the pattern established by the thinking, “this is hard so it must be bad.” In Romans 5:3,4 we read, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” So many of us react to the tough stuff of life as if the only possible purpose is to rob us of our happiness and place constraints on our freedom. But could it be there is a better way than just hoping the tough stuff goes away? Could we learn to receive the hard stuff as a gift? Is there a blessing hidden in those constraints that often come with difficulties? Maybe this is just what we need. Perhaps what is most needed are constraints that slow us down and cause us to reconsider our choices and our relationships. Especially our relationship with Christ. Maybe this is where God captures our hearts in deeper ways and shapes us for a greater spiritual character that is the result of innovation in the ways we perceive and handle trouble. Our daily habits and our spiritual growth might just benefit from the limitations imposed by a season of difficulty. If we will be teachable and humble and trust that God is in this with us, there might just be a new strength available to us. This is how we raise the bar on our discipleship.