The Hard Thing is Usually the Right Thing
But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.1 Thessalonians 2:2
One of my persistent life flaws is that I always look for the easy way out. Usually, I want to do the least amount of work possible to accomplish any task. I once applied this approach to my addiction, which didn’t go very well. Recovery is hard work, involving painful, life-long change. Back when I was using though, I wasn’t interested in any of that, and so it took me a long time to find recovery. In fact, I didn’t find it until I experienced consequences that were painful enough to convince me that I must embrace difficult, radical transformation.
Occasionally, in Christian circles, I’ll hear about how God showed someone his will by closing one door and opening another. What is usually meant, is that the individual speaking was headed in one direction which was shut down, and so they had to turn and go another direction, which they attribute to God guiding them. I have no reason to doubt this kind of thinking, but I’ve always worried that it could give an audience the idea that the easiest route must be God’s will.
In today’s passage, Paul reminded the Thessalonians how he continued to share the gospel, despite persecution and conflict. Had Paul seen hostility as God telling him to stop, he wouldn’t have gotten very far. Wherever Paul went, he encountered closed doors. To be fair, Paul did leave Thessalonica eventually due to Jewish opposition, but he continued to spread the gospel. Paul persisted in God’s will, despite many closed doors. For Paul, the hard life was the right life. When making decisions, it seems Paul didn’t choose the easy thing, but rather, the right thing.
When faced with a difficult decision, and there isn’t clearly a right or wrong path, I’ve often found that the thing I don’t want to do is probably the right path. For better or worse, my first impulse is often wrong and so, if I’m not sure what I should do, but I know what I don’t want to do, then the thing I don’t want to do is usually the route I should choose.
The right choice is often the hard one. Wrong usually looks preferable but has some price to pay later. Right, on the other hand, usually requires some sacrifice initially, but is its own reward in the end. In doing the wrong thing, we eventually find misery. In doing the right thing, we find hope, joy, and peace, despite the discomfort.