Picture a tightrope walker, high above the big top, balancing precariously on a thin stretch of rope only an inch wide, long pole in hand, slowly walking forward one carefully laid step at a time. One wrong move, and the walker will come plunging down to earth in a painful, big heap. You never know what’s going to happen. No wonder it’s so thrilling to watch!
In life, for most of us, walking a tight rope isn’t so thrilling to live out. The tension, the fear, the absolute concentration to make the best next step can be wearing and tear at our spirit. This is especially true in our walk with God. When you are working through challenges with God, especially hard challenges, it is really easy to take wrong steps, and to crash and burn as a consequence.
What I have learned is the importance of balance. I can’t ignore my challenges that are in front of me or allow them to consume me, either. Let’s unpack this. No one likes hard, emotional challenges. They’re messy, they can be painful, and facing them requires bravery and courage. Yet without facing up to the challenge, we can’t ever overcome it and change. Americans tend to be horrible at this, partly because of our culture. We’re told to suck it up, to “Just do it.” Forget taking the time to examine your steps, or figuring out what’s really lurking in your heart; just run ahead and eventually you’ll get somewhere.
Unfortunately, where we land isn’t always better. We get wiped out spiritually, emotionally and physically. We feel lost and alone inside, all while putting out a positive, can do smile to the world around us. We work very hard to convince ourselves we’re fine, that everything will be fine, but inside our spirit knows this isn’t true. We keep running into walls, wondering why God isn’t helping us move forward.
Sometimes, I think I run from facing challenges because I’m afraid of falling off into the opposite end of the spectrum, of drowning in a sea of pain and fear, of self-loathing and doubt. And we’ve all met people like that, people so wrapped up in their own personal hell they can’t see the forest from the trees anymore. Their pain consumes them. They’ve run into a wall of another kind, and they’re lost, dazed.
Thankfully, God doesn’t expect us or even want us to live that way! He doesn’t want us to ignore our internal challenges, nor does He want to see us swallowed by them. None of us want to be the woman described in Proverbs 5:6: “She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly –rocky, pit-filled roads that twist and turn–but she does not know it.” What I have learned, what has been so transformative in my life, has been the secret of spiritual balance.
Now, I take the time to look head-on at my challenges, but I do it in the context of God’s grace. The challenge with only taking time to see where you are falling short is you forget to remember God loves you wholly and completely where you are at right now, in this very moment. I find personally the more I take the time to acknowledge God’s strengths within me, the easier it becomes to really acknowledge and let go of the sin/weaknesses that He’s already pardoned within me. The enemy wants to crush our spirit and take us to dark, lonely places; godly brokenness about our sin makes us deeply grateful and motivates us to change from a place of love. I know I am being refined because even though God loves me for exactly who I am in this moment, He loves me too much to leave me there. He doesn’t want to see me running into walls. He wants to see me soar higher than I’ve ever gone before.
So don’t be afraid to face your demons, your challenges, your heartache and your pain. You can’t be set free from what you refuse to acknowledge and bring into the light (James 5:16). But do this within the framework of God’s truths for you, taking the time first and foremost to remember the incredible strengths, gifts, talents and blessings He has placed in your life, so you don’t lose heart. Then, God can shine, “in the darkness, [on] those sitting in the shadow of death, showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace,” (Luke 1:79).
For Further Thought: Hebrews 12:2-3 tells us, “So take a fresh grip on life and brace your trembling limbs. Don’t wander away from the path but forge steadily onward. On the right path the limping foot recovers strength and does not collapse.” Take some time this week to consider your strengths, and also your challenges, then pray for God to direct your next steps forward toward healing.