Have you ever read the book, “Going on A Bear Hunt”? If you are a parent, grandparent, elementary school teacher or all the above, I know you have. For those of you who haven’t, let me enlighten you.
We’re going on a bear hunt.
We’re gonna catch a big one!
What a beautiful day.
We’re not scared.
So now everyone knows our goal, right? We all need to go together to catch this bear. Simple. What comes next are many obstacles to us catching said bear. It starts with “long, wavy grass”, then “a deep, cold river”, “a big, dark forest”, “a swirling, whirling, snowstorm”, “a narrow, gloomy cave” and my favorite, “thick, oozy mud”. The author says,
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
We can’t go around it.
I guess we’ll have to go through it.
I was thinking of this today as I was having my quiet time. God always seems to use simple things to teach me great truths and shake me out of whatever funk I find myself. The word through this story is “perseverance”. No matter what we come up against as we pursue our goals, we must trudge through it with “perseverance”.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt very much like I’ve been dragging myself through “thick, oozy mud” lately. I’m 48 and my life has changed drastically. I’ve found myself having to learn new skills, take classes and get new certifications. I’m studying and reading more than ever. I’ve let my physical fitness efforts go, and used the excuse that, “I don’t have time”, and I’m, unfortunately seeing the results! I get to the end of the day and my mind is exhausted as well as my body. I pray and ask the Lord for direction and it seems that I’m apparently going in the right one, regardless of how difficult it is right now. I have peace that I’m moving in the right direction, it is just so difficult. I guess I’ve just wanted Him to let me bypass the obstacles and get right to the benefits. But that’s not how it works.
The Lord reminded me of a few years ago when I decided that I was going to run a 5K for the first time. That crazy idea started one night while at a conference with a colleague. I got my shower and came out of the bathroom in my jammies ready to polish my toenails, watch a little late-night television and hit the hay! My friend, on the other hand, was decked out in her workout wear and was heading for the gym. She said she was training for the 5K.
This, folks, was the very 5K that I organized and executed as a fundraiser for a local school. This was the second year that I had organized the 5K, but I certainly had never ran in it. I’m the mom who loves to decorate, cook, and plan fun family events. I’ve never been the physical fitness mom who runs 5K’s, 10K’s or marathons. So, I smiled at my friend and said, “See you when you get back,” and proceeded to exert the effort to polish my toenails.
When she came back to the room after her workout, she was sweaty and red in the face and you could tell she had persevered! I, on the other hand felt unaccomplished compared to her, but I did have some pretty toenails. I was certainly inspired by her tenacity and discipline and went home and told David that I was going to run in the 5K. You can imagine the look on his face, but he didn’t discourage me.
My friend had told me about an app called “Couch to 5K” that I could download on my phone and it would be my personal trainer. You need to know that this was February and we were having a very harsh winter. I didn’t have a gym membership so I decided I would weather the cold and do this! Day one, I bundled up like I was in the Arctic, started the app and headed down the road in my neighborhood.
It started out great! The trainer on my phone told me to “start walking” to warm up. Then, every few minutes she would say, “now run”. I would run for a bit then she would let me walk again. It was fine the first few times and I thought it was going to be a breeze. However, the running time kept getting longer as I progressed, and I was feeling it. I thought that surely, we were almost done because I just knew I was going to die. Then, my “personal trainer” said, “Congratulations! You are halfway there.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? HALF-WAY?
That’s the moment that I began to reason in my mind that it would be OK if I quit early. I mean, come on, I hadn’t done this much exercise in I didn’t know when. Certainly, that was good for day one, right? Then I began to tell myself, “Who is going to know if you quit? You’ll do better tomorrow.” The more that voice and my aching body kept telling me to quit, the more I willed myself to persevere.
Now you may be laughing right at this moment picturing me decked out like an Eskimo running through my neighborhood in 30-degree weather and you would be right to do that. It was a pretty humorous site. But I was struggling. The more I pushed myself to keep going, the more the Holy Spirit began to speak to me about my life and how I needed to let go of being comfortable if I wanted all that He had for me. He was teaching me about perseverance. Little did I know what was really ahead of me in the next few years, and even right at this moment, that He was preparing me for back then. There were obstacles heading toward me that I wouldn’t be able to just “quit” on. The truth was, no one would know, but me and God, if I quit early that first day. But quitting early would certainly affect my ability to reach my goal of running in that 5K.
No one knows the dreams that God has placed in your heart and the obstacles that you are facing to reach them. They also won’t know if you give up early and never see that dream come to pass. But you will. That first day of training, I knew that the more effort I put into the training and conditioning myself, the more equipped and prepared I was going to be when that day came to run the race. So, against what my mind and body was telling me to do, I kept on running. To tell the truth I was quoting scriptures, crying (don’t laugh), and speaking in tongues a little bit. I’m not sure if they were Holy tongues or not. You get the picture. When I stopped focusing on how much further I had to go and focused on what I was working toward the time passed quickly and that voice on my phone, my personal trainer, said, “Now rest.”
Those words were the most welcome and refreshing words I had ever heard at that moment. I had made it through the first day and I knew that if I kept on persevering, I would make it to my goal. And, I did. The day of that race, I didn’t come in first, but I did complete the race and came in second place in my age division. I realized that pushing through the “thick, oozy mud” of getting my body prepared was so worth it. I felt better physically and emotionally, and I had accomplished something new.
The definition of the word “Perseverance” is “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success”. Some words that mean the same are tenacity, determination, resoluteness, purposefulness and staying power. Oh, I love that last one–STAYING POWER.
Friends, I have been struggling with this lately. I’ve started a new job. I’m pursuing steps toward building the ministry that I know God is calling me to do. I’m raising my two kids (young adults) who are still at home and being there for my grown children and new grand-baby. I’ve struggled with whether I’m making right choices. Are there easier ways to get around this “thick, oozy river” that is my life right now? But I know, I can’t go over it, I can’t go around it and I can’t go under it. If I am going to reach the prize that I know God has for me, I’m going to have to trudge through it.
I’ve been reading a book by Dr. Cindy Trimm called, “When Kingdoms Clash”. Today I read this:
“The enemy will fight you in the area he fears you the most. To resist the temptation to wave the proverbial white flag signifying that you are giving up, take your stand in prayer. You will be equipped with the mind of Christ.”
The answer to staying the course is “take your stand in prayer.” When all hell is coming against you, PRAY! Cast all your cares on your Father. But, know that it is going to take perseverance on your part. You can’t tap out early and expect to win the fight. You must stay in the ring and keep swinging! Stay the course. Tell your mind, and the lies of the enemy to SHUT UP. Know that good things come when we persevere through the difficult things. Take it one day at a time. When you get through the first day, thank the Lord and REST. Day two is coming. You will have to put on your running shoes and do it again. But just like you did it on day one, you can do it on day two. The next thing you know, you are going to be crossing that finish line with everyone who loves you and supports you cheering you through.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” II Timothy 4:7-8
God can move obstacles out of our way. But He won’t move
obstacles, if they are what we need to condition us to be prepared for the next
stretch of the race. So if there is an obstacle in your way, you have the
choice to sit down and whine about it and plead with God to move it, or you can
have the mind of Christ to realize that He want’s you to trudge through it.
Make the decision to persevere through every obstacle that you are facing right
now, knowing that He’s got you. You will make it and you will be better because
of it and you will get an opportunity to REST at the end.