She was all hooked up. Ready for the Pitocin to start dripping. She winced at the thought of induced labor. And then, in a pathetic attempt to assuage her concerns, he let those words roll off his tongue, “All labor is the same. Labor is labor.” I wanted to kick my friend’s obstetrician. Where it counts. Right then and there in the matchbox-sized labor and delivery room. To teach him a thing or two about pain. Because having had giganto babies au naturel (sans Pitocin), I knew he was full of crap, and his patronizing attempt at comfort did nothing to acknowledge the real pain and ridiculously hard work my friend was about to endure as she brought forth her new baby boy right before my very eyes. And because there was nothing I could do to remove her from the pain, I was there for solidarity. To be with her in it and through it. Because that’s all she needed and that’s all I could offer.

The truth is, life is hard. And there is pain. And none of us is exempt from having experienced it or living through it again in the future. But no, Dr. Stupid Dumbhead, M.D., all labor is not just labor, all pain is not the same, and all things hard are not comparable. Sure, a papercut from opening your mail too fast hurts like h-e-double-hockeysticks and you will want to cry it out like a Babywise baby and if that’s the worst pain you ever felt in your insulated life you might think you know real pain, but I’ll take a hundred papercuts sliced slowly across the end of every single one of my fingertips before I ever pass another kidney stone or have the bones in my face chiseled by a surgeon.

And if you’re a dear fellow sojourner who understands pain and hard times and suffering beyond the “life is hard” cliché, I know you get this. You get the feeling of wanting to pull a Mike Tyson on the next person who pats you on the shoulder and tells you, “Life is hard, but God is good.” Because really? No sheetola. Life is hard. Welcome to Planet Freaking Earth. And yes, God is good. (Amen and amen.) But sometimes you JUST WANT A BREAK FROM HARD. And no cliché, no platitude, no pat on the back, no sweet somethings from someone who cares will give you that respite for which you desperately long. Because when it comes down to it, you are in these circumstances beyond your control and wishes, and only the sovereignty of our God can take you through it and (hopefully, Dear Jesus, HOPEFULLY) bring you out of it before you meet your Savior face to face.

If this kind of living surviving day after day after downright hard day resonates with you, solidarity—not solutions—is my sole aim today. Because it doesn’t matter what your can’t-take-it-anymore pain looks like on the outside; you know what it feels like. You’re lonely. Tired. Drained. Ready for a new day. A new season. A whole new year. A break. And you realize it may never come on this side of eternity. And that realization makes it all the hell of a lot harder.

You’re a grandmother in your 70s and you’re raising your grandkids after their dad vacated and their mom chose drugs over them, so instead of road-tripping the U.S. of A. with your Lifelong Sweetheart in your paid-for R.V., you are dealing with the throes of teenage rebellion and forking out hundreds and hundreds for counseling. You don’t get to do what other seniors are doing, and you need some respite. And every day is beyond hard. 
You’re a mom with a special needs child and though you love him with every bit of every atom in every single cell in your entire being and can’t imagine your life without him, you’re absolutely beyond wiped out, because it’s just so damn hard to tend to him every single second of every single day to no end and none of your friends understands. And every day is beyond hard.
You are fifty years old and have your own family to raise, but you spend every minute of every day tending to your live-in, elderly, ailing father who can’t remember who you are and, though you love him with all of your middle-aged heart, you are exhausted and drained and have nothing left to give. And every day is beyond hard.
You adopted an older child who lived a nightmarish life of trauma and heartache before they were yours and they are unleashing it on you like a relentless tsunami and you wake up every single day wishing that you didn’t have to face another day of hell but knowing that you have no choice and you walk on shattered eggshells all day long because it’s just not worth another three-hour rage fest over the most minor of things and you cry alone in bed every morning because you fear what the day will bring. And every day is beyond hard.
Your child suffers from the lifelong, permanent effects of FASD because their birth mom couldn’t put the bottle down and so you sit night after night after night at your child’s side at the kitchen table just wanting them to sound out one freaking word from their homework and they can’t even sit still long enough to make it through the first sound and they’re only in the second grade and you can’t imagine every night for the next ten years JUST LIKE THIS and you just want a break from the difficult. And though some accuse you of having a pity party, you don’t feel sorry for yourself at all because this is your life after all and you embrace it but it’s just so freaking hard to live it. And every day is beyond hard.
Your house is in foreclosure and your husband is working three jobs just to put food on the table but ends aren’t being met anyway and the bills keep coming and the collectors keep calling and you can’t afford to do what any of your friends are doing and you bend over backwards to find ways to take care of your family’s basic needs but it’s not making a dent and it’s scary and lonely and taking an emotional and mental toll on you and your marriage and your kids but this is just your way of life and though God keeps giving you the manna you hunger for the ribeye that you see everyone else feasting on and the smallest financial inconveniences send you over the cliff because nothing is easy or simple when you don’t have money. And every day is beyond hard.
Your husband unexpectedly passed away one year ago and with him went all of the oxygen in your lungs and in your home and you are drowning in your own grief but you have to act strong enough to help your kids not get overtaken by their own painful loss and you keep thinking it will get better or at least easier and it hasn’t and you keep putting one foot in front of the other but it doesn’t change reality. And though (most of) your friends try to be supportive very few of them truly understand and some might even judge. They want you to pull yourself up out of the trench of hard times and join their festivities of the normal. But you can’t. Because your life is different. And every day is beyond hard.
Your child is sick so often you don’t even keep track anymore and you spend day after day and week after week in and out of the hospital and while you have the support of friends and family and money is no issue it’s just so difficult to keep it up but you don’t have a choice because it’s your kid and you would die for them but you can barely breathe yourself most days. And your head is barely above the surface of the raging sea and the salty taste never leaves your mouth and you gag with every breath. And it’s all you can do to tread water and not go under…at least not for too long that you can’t come back up. And every day is beyond hard.

Hard beyond hard beyond hard. Suffocatingly hard. Perpetual hyperventilation. And what makes it feel impossibly harder is that you can absolutely remember a time of life when it wasn’t this way. When faith wasn’t a fight and joy did not elude you and every day wasn’t a struggle.

And so you do what all humans do with our finite brains and fragile hearts to reconcile what doesn’t make sense in our stories. We divide our lives into seasons, chapters, segments of time—no matter how short or long. We remember those poignant moments that define each phase. We speak in metaphor of “walking in the wilderness” and “waiting for the Promised Land.” And we know exactly how many days and weeks and months and years our wilderness has lasted. And it’s been a long time even if it hasn’t been. And we yearn for struggles to cease and the blessings to abound. We scream when the Heavens seem silent and beg for God to rain down. We thank Him for the manna yet want to leave the desert after all. We cry out. Because it’s hard. Hard beyond hard. And we long for a respite. A season—no, a day even—that isn’t downright hard. That doesn’t greet us with pain and hardship and suffering and loneliness. And there are no solutions or Dave Ramsey Steps to Peace because this is your life for as long as you can foresee it and if there were a way out of it you would have long ago found it. And all you desire from others is solidarity or at least a semblance of it.

You are grateful beyond all thankfulness for the micro mercies and force yourself to focus on them daily—The meal spontaneously dropped off by a friend who was thinking about you—The check you got in the mail to help cover Christmas presents for your kids—The car someone loaned you so you could get to an appointment on time—The lady who gives your kids free haircuts—The nurse who was extra friendly to your child and got you into your appointment right away—The Facebook post on your wall to encourage you. But you long for the Macro Mercy of El Roi—The God Who Sees—whom you beg to step in and with authority scream ENOUGH! and usher you into your own Promised Land right here on Earth.

And truly you “rejoice in your sufferings” and all that it produces like character and hope and endurance. You “consider it pure joy” because your trials have grown your faith like nothing else could. And you know without doubt—though it’s tested daily—that the “glory that will be revealed in us” one day will ultimately make it all worthwhile. And you even feel and believe that “when you pass through the waters,” He is with you. You have followed God long enough and hard enough to know that “He has plans to prosper you and not to harm you” and will give you (eventually) that hope and that future. And friends close and strangers afar laud you for your unwavering faith and unshakeable strength and while you truthfully appreciate their affirmation you just want your present reality to give you a break from having to have that kind of faith and strength at all.

So, Dear Reader, if every day of your present life is hard beyond hard and you weep without words in your thoughts because you are living this present darkness right now, lift up your head and reach out your hand because I stand here with you as a fellow sojourner in the Wilderness of Suffering. And I will stand with you in your pain and you with me in mine and together we will offer one another

Mercy

Love

Grace

Comfort

Compassion

Prayer

SOLIDARITY

Because when every day of your present life is hard beyond hard beyond hard, solidarity is enough to help you make it—through another hard day…

so we can remind each other that our Savior who died for us and knows our sufferings is linking arms with us. And that Jesus loves me. This I know. Especially in the hard beyond hard. 

{Selam, Eden, Heidi, Simona, Bethlehem, Izzy}

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life,

neither angels nor demons,

neither the present nor the future,

nor any powers,

neither height nor depth,

nor anything else in all creation,

will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

-Romans 8:35-38

27 thoughts on “Hard Beyond Hard Beyond Hard

  1. Nancy H

    Amazing words on suffering. For those of us who have been there, are there now or will someday be there – TRUTH.

    Reply

  2. julie p

    Because I can’t even cry anymore. Hard beyond hard beyond the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. I had been through so very much prior to bringing home my child from hard places that I thought I had seen it all. Incorrect. So much more “life is hard; God is good” preached at us and less of the blessed promised land. No grace. Just intense weariness in the battle for my little one’s life. And much loneliness in this journey. So heart broken. Thanks for this, Heidi.

    Reply

    1. heidi Post author

      You have my prayers and compassion. Because dammit if we’re going to feel lonely we might as well link arms and feel lonely together.

      Reply

  3. Jen

    Thank you for writing this article. It was uplifting to feel like it’s okay to have hard times. Most often it seems like we are chastised for having a difficult ‘moment in time’ and are told that ‘everything will be okay’ or ‘go back to normal soon’. But some of us have found out the hard way, it isn’t and it doesn’t. Having faith in these times is imperative. It has helped me to adjust my thought pattern and encouraged me to reach out to other sisters when I need it, and likewise when they need it. It feels good to be able to say, sometimes life is just hard, period. Thank you…

    Reply

  4. Lynn

    Truth. Pure unadulterated truth. This is what needs to be preached. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you Jesus that we are in a time of respite but I have been there. And it is tough. It sucks. Solidarity and peace to all my sisters in the trenches.

    Reply

  5. sunshine

    love you and stand with you. you have said everything i think every day. solidarity is the only thing that you can ask for, the only thing that will help….because there is nothing else that will help.

    Reply

  6. Mary(Owlhaven)

    I wish I didn’t understand this so well. And frankly, I’m glad (mostly) when I meet someone who doesn’t really understand. Who just imagines the garden-variety ‘hard’. Because I wouldn’t wish uber-hard on anyone. I am just so very grateful that the battle belongs to the Lord, not me, and that my citizenship is in wonderful place called HEAVEN, where ALL tears will be wiped away….
    Hugs,
    Mary

    Reply

  7. Stephanie

    Thanks for sharing Heidi. I do not remember the Dr’s words that day. Lol. I do remember the pain. My worst pain ever was losing Brooklyn. That pain of labor was the worst pain I’d ever felt in my life. Not just physically but emotionally as well. And then to hold her in my arms with not a cry or sound or movement from her…but we endure and go on because we have to.

    Reply

  8. Stacy

    I love this so much. Solidarity is so essential. Because here is the thing – my hard beyond hard may look very different from someone else’s hard beyond hard. But that doesn’t mean that we have nothing in common. Pain is the great equalizer and we all know what it means to hurt.

    Great stuff, my friend.

    Reply

  9. Brenna

    This hit at just the right time. Our “wilderness” has been our entire 16-3/4 years of marriage, while my husband has suffered with debilitating anxiety attacks that keep him home and fearful, and I try to manage a house and get our teenage sons to Scouts and church and everything else knowing that he can’t be there for any of it. We’ve felt like the hope of healing has been dangled out in front of us for so long and we’re beginning to think that maybe we’re just going around the same block again and again and again. It’s exhausting to have to think in terms of what he can/can’t do (and it’s usually can’t) and it’s heartbreaking to watch our sons at another awards ceremony without their dad there and it’s humiliating to have to beg our pastors to please come visit? and it’s infuriating when they don’t and we’re made to feel “less than.” Yes, I’ve counted my blessings and yes, I know it could be much much worse but it doesn’t negate the desire for normalcy. Just for a day. Just for a trip to the zoo or a drive to my in-laws’ or dinner and a movie.

    But we wait, and wait, and wait. And pray.

    Reply

  10. Amy

    Perfectly stated, friend. There is some comfort in looking up at the underside of God’s tapestry and see the threads of pain and suffering coming together to create beauty. Knowing we aren’t being woven alone is so much sweeter.

    Reply

  11. Jeanie

    I identified. I laughed. And then I sobbed. Frankly I have lived the hard beyond hard beyond hard for so long and it is exhausting. I am only now starting to feel the Solidarity in the Pain. Thank you for putting such beauty and grace into a wilderness of ugliness and reminding me that I do not tread those paths alone.

    Reply

  12. Jennifer

    Thank you for putting it all into words. It is so hard to explain this to someone who is trying to “minister” to you with good intentioned, oversimplified, hollow words. What always stings the worst to me is that my harder than harder than hard is not just a season. It is my every day for the rest of my life. I never imagined myself being chronically ill and taking care of a severely disabled child all at the same time when I was young and dreaming my dreams of a beautiful, God-glorifying life. The thing is, those were my plans, not His. His were infinitely harder than mine, but a whole lot more Divine. I’m grateful for your courage to say what we all want to scream. It doesn’t mean we don’t hope if we feel pain. It doesn’t make us faithless if we tire. It makes us human. I’m tired of the judging and the isolation. I’m just tired. Thank you for making suffering less lonely.

    Reply

  13. Katherine

    Thank you. I can’t say why, and that’s part of the hard beyond hard beyond hard, but thank you.

    Reply

  14. Jill

    A friend of the family thought I could benefit from your blog and I can tell you after reading most of it, I like what I have seen thus far. I have had a extremely hard time since December 29,2008 when my 11 y.o. son was in a 4wheeler accident and he had major injuries the main one being a ABI/TBI (brain injury) so we fought hard for his life for 4-1/2 yrs to keep him healthy. On June 2nd he succumbed to his injury. Then 3 days later we found out our home had been foreclosed on. We are living in a friends rental property so we are not completely homeless but feel like it sometimes. And trying to grief while trying to figure what to do for our family at same time. We are all faithful and trying to not give up hope. I know we have a purpose, a message to deliver

    Reply

  15. renee j.

    Amazing perspective!! Yes, everyone’s “hard” is different…but gut-wrenching just the same. And yes, we vividly remember with complete clarity the moment everything changed….January of 2010. Every family memory is now viewed as BEFORE… AND AFTER…And then the moment of rock bottom…And now, thankfully, the slow but steady climb back up again. And no, things will never be the same…ever, ever again and that sucks so bad I can’t even begin to tell you. But you already know. I don’t need to explain. And THAT is a feeling of relief…even just for a second. Love your writing!

    Reply

  16. Shelby

    Heidi, we adopted our daughter, Eden at age 5. She came from Ethiopia broken. She lost her parents, her homeland, her language, the foods she was familiar with, basically everything . . . including her identity. We were strangers to her. Our intentions were good, but that was a knowledge that could only come to her in time. We spent months chasing her as she ran from our house and down the street, pulled her out from under the neighbors car (where she had hidden), locked my self in the van with her, to protect my other kids from her rages, while she beat me over the head with her shoe repeatedly, watched as she drooled and sobbed, yet pushed me away. There were days when I thought I couldn’t keep doing this. Life was hard beyond hard. I watched as our family changed from easy day-to-day to a struggle that was heart wrenching. Days I thought God may have been mistaken to entrust us with such a raw, vulnerable soul. We were only human, and clearly this was a super-human feat! 5.5 years later, life is sweet again. Our sweet Eden trusts us and loves us. We no longer face daily rages, but occasional gut-wrenching, heart-ache. She leans on us to help her through her pain, she no-longer pushes us away. At one time, I truly could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not naïve, I know we are not out of the woods. Damage this deep never disappears, it hides, it’s crafty and reappears. As I watch my sweet girl graduate from school . . . it will be there. When I see my beautiful daughter in her wedding gown . . . it will be there, as she holds her first child in her arms . . . it will be there. But so will I. I’m not a replacement, I’m not second best, I just happen to be plan B. And that’s okay. I am honored. Thank you for highlighting this struggle. It’s refreshing to know, that even when it’s harder than hard, I am not alone!!

    Reply

  17. Courtney

    I can’t even express how grateful I am for your words. I am one of those people who has watched her life go from hard to harder to hard beyond hard; to the point where I just don’t know if my soul & sanity can make it through tomorrow but I cling to God and walk through this moment. I needed your words here, I needed to know that I’m not the only person who feels this way and that it’s okay to feel this way. That it’s okay to hurt so deeply that no amount of well-meaning words can scratch the surface and it’s okay to not know if it’s ever going to get better this side of heaven. I can say honestly, love really is the only thing that gets me through each day: my love for God, His insanely incredible love for me, my love for those dearest to me, other people’s love for me and even my love for this crazy, beautiful, hard beyond hard life (even though sometimes I hate it). Your words touched my heart so deeply because I see them as an act of love and understanding, and that takes a huge weight off my shoulders if only for a little bit. Thank you so much, Heidi! 🙂

    Reply

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  19. VALERIE ROGERS

    Wow! I think you are living at my house! LOL Thank you so much for your honesty. It’s so good to be able to hear from another Christian who understands and ADMITS the pain & struggle. I know people mean well, but sometimes I just wish they would quit telling me that “I am so strong” or “You will be so much stronger after this is over.” I am so tired of hearing that! What choice do I have? I was happy being a marshmallow! Thanks again and God bless you & all of us in the trenches.

    Reply

  20. Katie Bell-Simpson

    Thank you for this and other posts. It means so much to know that there are people out there who truly get how hard this is. Our daughter came to us at 2 years old. I was her third mom. We’ve been dealing with her attachment disorder and the chaos that she has brought to our home for the past 5 years. It is draining. I am worn in ways that I didn’t know I could be. Every day through her behaviors she asks me if I’m strong enough to be her mom. I have to answer that I am, even when I doubt it myself. Life is beyond hard, but God is in the business of redemption. Praying for healing and strength for those of us in this fight.

    Reply

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