Monday, August 19, 2013

Fighting Discouragement: "I'm Not Making Any Progress."

This summer I tuned in on the Discovery Channel to witness Nik Wallenda walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. He was 1500 feet above the Colorado River, and as he walked the quarter mile distance, his view looking down rarely altered. Watching his own journey across that wire shortly after the event, Nik commented repeatedly on his discouragement over the remarkable lack of progress he felt he was making.

Stepping out over the canyon at 48 seconds into the walk, Nik saw the river and rocks below him.

After 3 minutes, he said of this view, "It shows how slow my progress was. It looks like I haven't even moved. We keep showing the camera that goes straight down to the bottom of the canyon, and it doesn't look like I'm going anywhere."

He repeated after 4 minutes, "There it is again. I haven't gone anywhere. Looks like we're going back to the same clip over and over again. Maybe it was a treadmill wire. Doesn't look like I'm moving."

Finally, at almost 10 minutes, he confessed, "The whole time I was out there, I just felt like I wasn't making any progress. I felt like the camera that was looking down. I felt like I was walking in one place for about three-quarters of the walk. I was trying to count the pendulums, but I couldn't concentrate enough to count them. I wasn't sure - I lost count - I wasn't sure where I was at. I knew that I had 20 of them to cross, and I was hoping - to get - once I got to the middle, I wanted my dad to tell me, and he never did. And I was going to ask him, but then I was scared to ask him because I was scared I wasn't halfway across."

As I listened to Nik describe the difficulties of the wire whipping back and forth, the utter dryness of this mouth, and the sudden gusts of strong winds that seemed to come out of nowhere, it reminded me of how discouraged I have felt at times in my own journey. When I have a bad health day or become overwhelmed by the lack of change in my circumstances, it's easy to feel how Nik did up on that "treadmill wire." I want to know from God if I've made it halfway through specific trials or if I'm in for even more trouble, but I'm almost too scared to ask.

As Nik continued to watch his walk, he began to describe how things improved when he was able to refocus his eyes from the canyon bottom to his destination.

About four minutes before the end he said, "I was able to relax here because rather than looking down at the wire and looking at those rocks crossing back and forth in front of me, I actually was able to look up to the land. I had something more solid to focus on that I could work off of."

This refocusing of his eyes made me think of four ways I could apply his experience to my own perspective.

1) If I keep my eyes down, looking at my problems, gauging progress by all the days of struggle that seem to blend together, I will be disoriented and discouraged. But if I fix my eyes (2 Cor 4:17-18) on the finish line of heaven, I will have a solid, unchanging goal which makes all the world's happiness pale in comparison. In order to hold on to sure hope and maintain proper perspective, I must mentally focus on my eternal destination, not my earthly obstacles.

2) When the wind of adversity surges ups suddenly and slows my progress to a standstill, it can remind me of my own powerlessness. However, Jesus used his sovereign power to calm the wind (Mark 6:48-52) for his disciples who had been straining to row against it all night long. When I can't change a situation, I must trust that the winds which disrupt my plans and progress are under his total authority. He uses the adversity for my ultimate good and then calms it at the proper time.

3) And when the cable of stability whips out from under me, threatening to topple my confidence, I must listen for the voice of my Father who is guiding me from the other side. Just like Nik's dad who spoke direction in his ear during tense times, God can see and know things I can't possibly understand from my position. He is my supplier of wisdom (James 1:5) when my steps feel uncertain and shaky.

4) Finally, I learned that my progress in trial depends on whether I choose to keep taking those small, sometimes painfully hard steps of obedience in the right direction. Choosing to love when it hurts, choosing to forgive when I've been wronged, choosing to continue on after a setback rather than giving up - in all ways I must press on (Phil 3:12-14).

Though the pace seems painfully slow and the winds and upsets unrelenting at times, the struggle will be well worth it if we focus our minds on heaven, trust with our soul in the authority of Christ, listen with our hearts to God's wisdom, and choose with our will to press on in faith. In this way, we will share in the victory Jesus died to give us.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:2-3


Anonymous said...

Hello Kristen

Just letting ou know that although you have not blogged for a while... I keep checking in to see how you are.

I pray and hope that you are keeping away from despair and growing in your steadfast faith.

Hope that you return to blogging soon

Asking God to sustain your body, heart and soul


Anonymous said...


Insomnia night.... Just saying hi... Hope you coping with dys okay... Just checking in to say hello wondering how your doing.....

Waiting for you to enlighten us on your journey....

One breath at a time girl

Been missing you,