Trout Fisherman in Hell

May 20, 2013 | Chris Brady

(Below is an excerpt from my next book, being crafted with love and blood even as you read this!)

There is a hackneyed old story about a fisherman who believes he has died and gone to Heaven as he catches one perfect 2 lb trout after another.  As he sets his fly and hooks into yet one more, he can’t fathom his good fortune.  The sky is blue, the weather ideal, the fish Trout Fishingbiting like he’s never before experienced, and everything is absolutely perfect.  It is not long, however, before the realization dawns on him that he is not in Heaven at all.  Instead, as the boredom and the pointlessness settle in on him, he realizes he’s actually in Hell.

It’s hard to describe just how hard this little parable hit me the first time I heard it.  In one moment it erased all my whiny complaints about how difficult and elusive success seems to be.  The trout fisherman in Hell story is so extreme, so seemingly ridiculous, that we are confronted with a strange and brutal fact: we may hate opposition and struggle, but it is critical for our mental health.  Without the struggle, we would feel no joy in victory.

How can this be? How can it be true that we are actually happier and more fulfilled when overcoming opposition than when everything is easy and simply rolling our way? It is because of the way we were made.  Without a battle to win and an enemy to vanquish, the value of the warriar goes to zero.  In the famous words of Thomas Paine, “What we attain too cheaply we esteem too lightly.”  If we don’t earn it, we can’t enjoy it.

This is profound, and it ought to provide a telling answer against all those dismal statistics that suggest that the “odds” of making it are too tall. If we consider only statistics most of us would never get out of bed in the morning, much less find a way to force ourselves to study for that upcoming calculus exam or next achievement in our career.  You see; it doesn’t matter how difficult success is or what the odds are of us “making it.”  What matters is our struggle against the opposition, the force of our will against the force of everything that would try and stop us.  Not only does it fulfill us to have something against which to push, but in the process it also makes us better.  It is the resistive weight that builds the muscles.  So ultimately, it doesn’t matter if success is hard or not, it simply matters that we pursue it anyway.


Chris Brady

About gabulmer

Christian apologist, husband, father, runner, blogger, leader with LIFE Leadership.
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