Struggle. It’s a word that I feel I’ve become very familiar with, as has my family. The word isn’t exclusive to us, I think many are, or have been, in the same boat. But for the past ten years, on and off, it’s been incredibly challenging and, if I can “let loose” I’d say that this word is pretty accurate. Sometimes I think we like to pretend that we don’t struggle, that life comes effortlessly, and we are perfect; we have perfect families, perfect homes, perfect financial situations and perfect health. And there are moments when our peers fool us, and we believe that, somehow, we are the only imperfect ones, the only ones going through hard times. But that would be a lie. The Jones’ aren’t real, and they struggle too.
When my mother left, I was about sixteen and my sister was eleven. Not only did she abandon the family, but, with that, she abandoned all her obligations, including financially. Although my dad was a professional engineer with a great job, she had left him with a mountain of debt that she never told anyone about. So we went from being somewhat upper middle class Americans to, being house poor and faking it. We started shopping at discount stores, we didn’t buy as many groceries as we once did. It wasn’t to say we were destitute, but life had definitely changed. I remember feeling like I needed to contribute so I picked up a job as a hostess at the local Italian restaurant where I worked for about three years. We all started hustling and grinding, just trying to make it through and not knowing what other disaster might arise. I didn’t go hang out with friends much, we worked nonstop. When I wasn’t working, I was at school. There weren’t all the little “extras”, like shopping with mom for school clothes or getting your hair cut every two months. It was just survival. Can you relate?
Now I’m not complaining at all. The experience that I had, that was born out of a horrible situation taught me mental toughness, coping abilities, and work ethic. It was what molded my personality and shaped me. However, I understand that a lot of people feel this struggle. With our economy trying to recover, with baby boombers not retiring and a flood of college studuents entering to the job market, it’s changed the financial landscape for many. Our nation is trying to get back to its roots and health, I think it’s indicative of what many of us feel. The car breaks down, the vet bills pile up, we have an argument with our spouse, we lose or change jobs…all these things are part of that life season of “struggle”.
I know I have moments where I ask God when that time will be up? When it’ll feel normal again. Because just starting out as a newly married couple, as cool as it sounds, it’s a huge adjustment. I see the posts on Facebook where everyone smiles and they go on a romantic Jamaican cruise, but that is not us. And logic tells me that someone else probably paid for that cruise, or it’s paid for on “plastic”; that the facades we see on social media, many times, just aren’t real. But do you feel that way? When you’re going through the grind, work piles up, and the dishwasher breaks, you feel like it’s just you going through it?
I can assure you, it isn’t just you. We all undergo tough situations where we question ourselves, question our decisions. Did we make the right move? Did we pray enough? Did we think through the decision the right way? It’s like we think that the struggle is somehow always our fault, and sometimes, it’s simply life taking it’s course.
The struggle, it’s not always a bad thing. Webster’s dictionary defines struggle as: “to make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction”. It is synonymous with to “fight, grapple, or wrestle”. These aren’t always bad words. Sometimes a fight is worth it, sometimes breaking free and loosing yourself, is a good thing. So when you feel like it’s just you today struggling, trying to break free, know that it’s not; we all struggle and grapple with things in our lives. And don’t stop trying to break free, to keep fighting, keep wrestling, and striving forward. Because you don’t know what’s on the other side if you give up. You don’t see the progress you’re making in the wrestling match; but you’re doing it, and little by little, you’re gaining ground. Keep taking one step at a time; your struggle is worth the fight.