Don't avoid struggles: Life isn't supposed to be easy

Sunday, January 2, 2011

This is the time of year for resolutions, examining the life that you are living now compared to your ideal life and taking steps toward harmonizing the two. The majority of health clubs will be crowded, the shelves of the health food aisle will be close to empty and all of a sudden classic books will be checked out of the library. That is, unless failing to keep resolutions made in years past has made you so disillusioned that you refuse to create them this year.

Proverbs 14:4 says, "Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox."

Imagine the farmer giving a tour of all of the features of this barn. "These are the pens for the oxen and other animals. This is where we store extra feed. In this area is where the plow and the harnesses are kept. The tools to repair our equipment are over here."

"Excuse me sir," a small voice squeaks from the back of the tour group, "Where are the oxen? I really want to see the big, strong, smelly ox."

"Oh, we don't have any oxen," he replies, "They'll only mess up the place."

This famer is missing the point. It's wonderful to have a clean and efficient stable, but without the mess of an ox there's no point. The manger was made for oxen, the equipment to work with them and the messes that they leave behind. This famer pushing toward ease and beauty has missed the purpose of a manger and the blessing that comes from the big, strong, smelly ox.

Pushing toward ease robs us from the purpose, intensity and the richness of life that in the depth of our souls truly desire. Oxen can bring tremendous blessing, but they take work, discipline and endurance. Often we choose ease over the struggles and potential failures of first attempts. We try to create a haven for ease but deeply feel a lack of purpose in the manger of our lives.

The difference between a clean manger and a blessed one is a master who will deal with the filth. The Master pushes the manger toward its purpose. He takes the oxen out into the fields breaking up the clumps, hauling away the stones and deals with the oxen mess. The master transforms the manger.

Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father, minister and writer. Read more from him at

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