I was always a good student, but my senior year in high school, pre-calculus stumped me. It seriously stumped me. I was use to getting A's and bemoaning an occasional B. I put my nose to the grindstone the first quarter -- staying late and going in early for extra help. The result was a C. I vowed not to let it get the best of me and kept at it second quarter. Again, I got a C.
As the third quarter rolled around, I trembled. All year long, Mr. Bates had told us about the 200 point take home test he gave third quarter each year. I worked all weekend on that test, puzzling over and over the questions, searching the book, praying. When we got it back, I was crushed to find out that all of my effort resulted in 2 points out of 200!
With an eye on college (I had already been admitted to the University of Evansville), I called the admissions office and asked if I needed the class. It turns out that I only needed it if I was going to go into engineering. I dropped it -- wondering why I had been taking it in the first place.
I had Mr. Bates for a computer class as well. I hadn't talked to him about my decision, so when I showed up for the computer class, he expressed his disappointment. "Why," he asked, "after all that hard work would you quit now?" My answer, "It was just too hard." And it was hard and I couldn't stomach seeing an F on my report card after that disastrous take home test.
I don't necessarily quit easily, but there are times when I have decided that things are just too hard.
Lately, I've found myself thinking a lot about the idea of something being too hard. It's come to mind, particularly, as I've tried to sort through some personal things. I find myself wanting to avoid, bemoaning the fact that something is too hard. Is it doable? Probably. But it seems too painful. It feels crushing -- 100 times more so than contemplating an F on that report card. I quit then, so it seems logical to quit now. Maybe that is the danger of quitting. It becomes easier and easier to quit.
But should I have quit then? I don't know. F or no F, I had already been admitted to college and gotten a scholarship. While I didn't need the class for college, I may have need the growth experience from surviving an F on that all-important-to-me report card. But looking back, who cares now what was on that report card or more high school class rank?
As I've thought about it, the thought has come to mind, "What if Jesus had said it was just too hard?"
Look at Jesus as He approaches Jerusalem for the last time. Scripture makes it clear that He knows what was coming. What if he thought:
- My friends will fall asleep when I need them the most. I should stop.
- My friend is going to betray me with a kiss. I should turn around.
- They will bind my hands and beat me. The pain will be too great too bear. I should run.
- They will jam a crown of thorns upon my head, mock me, spit on me, humiliate me. I should hide.
- The crowds who praise me as I enter Jerusalem will call for my death in mere days. Would only a fool go forward?
- They will nail me to a cross like a criminal. I will die an agonizing death. How can I go one more step knowing that each step takes me one step closer to this pain and humiliation, the sense of being forsaken, the agony? God, it is just too hard.
So easy to say, "God's will be done" when life is easy -- when friends and family are faithful, when everyone is healthy, when the job is going well, when everything is just going right. how much harder to say it in the midst of pain and suffering, illness, abandonment, sadness . . . .
Jesus could have said, "It's too hard" and He would have been right. It was too hard. But he didn't quit. He fixed his eyes on God and pressed forward to the joy set before Him.
Sigh. If Jesus did not quit, do I have the luxury of saying, "It's too hard. I'm not going there!"
But there is hope in knowing that when it mattered the most in all of eternity, Jesus refused to throw up His hands and utter "It's just too hard!" and quit. He walks with us in the midst of hard.