I think I mentioned before that I have started to run. It’s something I’ve tried in the past and I always get to a point where I feel like I hit a brick wall and just can’t go on. This time I’m determined to push past that feeling. Some friends and I are going to do a 5K in the fall, and I want to run the whole thing.
After being on vacation for 10 days, I attempted to run for the first time in about two weeks yesterday. And it was not very successful. I’ve been using one of those interval training apps, you know the couch to 5K thing. I had to go back up two week and reset my progress because I just wasn’t there anymore. What a bummer. And what a feeling of failure. When am I going to get over this block? Maybe I’m just not cut out for running. These were the thoughts going through my head yesterday.
This got me thinking about different challenges that we experience in our lives. I don’t know about you, but many times I feel like I just keep hitting brick wall after brick wall. Whether it is a physical goal, professional goal, or spiritual goal, there comes a point when it just feels too hard and discouragement sets in. And because I am extremely afraid of failure, especially public failure, I tend to just not tell people what my goals are. Then, no one can know whether I failed or not. The problem with that approach is that I also have zero accountability and so it’s really easy to give up. But then there are things that I just keep stubbornly going after, even though they aren’t what’s best. I also need people in my life to point out pursuits that aren’t worthy of my time or energy.
The way that I see it, there are two types of hindrances in our lives. There are hurtles and then there are roadblocks. Roadblocks exist to keep us from traveling a road that is not safe for some reason. Maybe there’s a hazard ahead, construction being down, or a bridge out of service. When we see a roadblock, the best choice for us is to look for a different, a better and safer, path. Hurtles, though, are obstacles that are meant to be overcome. Hurtles are difficult, but allow us to get stronger and more disciplined. Hurtles help us train to run the race well. (Metaphorically – I have absolutely no plan to add hurtles to my 5K training).
I need to learn how to distinguish roadblocks from hurtles. I don’t always recognize the difference between something that is just hard, but worth the work, and something that is bad for me.
It is a little easier to see the difference with physical goals. There is no reason why I can’t become a better runner, except that I am lazy and don’t really like to do difficult things. I have no pressing medical conditions or injuries to stop me – I just have to keep working on it.
Other goals are harder to evaluate. As I think about my friends, I know several are struggling with this same thing. We are pursuing things that seem good, but not making any progress. So we start to wonder – is it a roadblock or a hurtle? Is God protecting us from something, or do we need to keep pushing? How do we tell if God is protecting us by redirecting our paths, or challenging us to help us grow stronger?
How do we tell the difference? We pray. We seek wise counsel. We evaluate our motives. We compare our desire to God’s truth. We trust that God is good. And then, we surrender and let Him work and guide. He will either give us the strength to overcome the hurtle, or the wisdom to find a new path.