Follow the Signs

After spending a couple of hours on a specific task with a specific goal and getting nowhere except frustrated and annoyed, I gave up. At least for now anyway. Perhaps it’s my ignorance or lack of skills causing my wheels to spin, or maybe it’s simply a stop sign in the road telling me to wait. What for what? Good question.

What I know for sure comes from experience: pushing through obstacles when there’s a stop sign only causes crashes. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t push through struggles. I mean, the title of this blog site clearly indicates my belief otherwise. What I am saying is that some struggles exist to change our direction or path, some exist to get us to stop and wait for traffic to clear, and others are meant to simply be pushed through.

Victory always waits on the other side of a struggle, though it is often not achieved the way we envisioned nor does it always look like we imagined it would when we get there.

A Change in Direction: Exercise has always been a part of my life since I was a teenager 25 years ago. Yet, no matter what method, intensity or frequency I choose, my body cannot handle the level of exercise I envision as ideal (think Jillian Michaels). My body has continually sent me messages letting me know what I can and cannot handle (mostly through injury and fatigue). I’ve had to significantly change direction with regard to exercise, and my view of victory in that area has had to change too. Sometimes we must take a different route to our planned destination. And sometimes, the destination has to change.

Stop and Wait: Along the road to any victory, there have been places I’ve needed to stop and wait. The waiting was often just for the traffic to clear before moving forward, but sometimes it was for the purpose of recalculating my route and choosing a completely different path. But always, it seems, the stopping was for my benefit. Sometimes, I needed to rest and refuel. Sometimes, I needed to be protected from the MAC truck barreling through the intersection. And sometimes, I needed to realize I was going completely the wrong way and that my choices to some extent were simply mistakes.

Pushing Through: When I hit 30, my health began to decline. Doctor after doctor and diagnosis after diagnosis, and only symptoms were being treated. I knew there was a root cause, and I was determined to find it. After 10 years of struggling and pushing, the cause was pinpointed (food allergy & several sensitivities), and I’m on the road to victory as my body heals. Had I not pushed through the many obstacles, my health would still be on the decline. Some struggles serve to test our persistence as we push through them to victory. Stopping is not an option. As I hit dead ends along the way, I did need to change routes, but the victory was still waiting at the end of the road.

What is God doing? To some extent, I think the verse “God does not allow a temptation we cannot bear without giving us a way out” (1 Corinthians 10:13) is at work here. He either gives us a way to bear it (push or struggle through), or He gives us another route to follow. Also at work in this is the verse “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). This is where we stop, bask in His protection and grace, and allow Him to be God. In any case, He is offering us guidance and protection.

How do we know? In the daily stillness before Him. In the perfection of His Word. In the act of spinning our wheels. In those places, we find Him directing traffic. Signs are everywhere. We simply have to take time to see and obey them.

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12 Replies to “Follow the Signs”

  1. "Some struggles serve to test our persistence …" From a coaching perspective, I want to set up obstacles to test players, to see who will "push through" and learn from the experience. It's those struggles, coupled with wisdom and godly counsel, that truly build a person up in his or her character. Good word today, Kari.

    1. Building character, boy do I think about that a lot as a parent. Obstacles definitely test, and a wise coach uses them in this way. I've talked with my youngest son many times about having to work through tough stuff. He has a tendancy to quit or give less effort when "it's hard." He is learning and growing as we go through these struggles together. Thanks!

      1. I talked with one player recently who'd forgotten his baseball cap on the day we took team pictures. He didn't want to talk to the head coach but I couldn't help him with the problem. The other coach said, "Sorry, you won't be in the picture then." Other arrangements allowed the player to be in the picture. Later I told him. "If you learn two lessons, you'll do well in life. Learn to deal with failure, because it happens to everyone. Learn to face the person you have to face when you've screwed up." I'm still working on both lessons because it's easier to repeat them than live them.

        1. This is why we insist our boys play at least one sport. (The youngest would play every sport if we let him, and the oldest is a runner.) Coaches have such terrific opportunities to teach kids valuable life lessons. Even if the coach doesn't do this, and sadly not all do, we take the opportunities as parents to teach life lessons based on sports experiences. Our youngest really gets these sports-related lessons so much better than any others we teach him. Can he come be on your team? The idea of learning to face the person when you have screwed up is a huge one, and I have learned it by watching my husband's example. He's terrific at this. I'm much better at just hiding and avoiding people, but that's not how God meant us to live.

          1. I'm more like you when it comes to confrontation but, like you, I have someone who models courage and proper response when confrontation is necessary. I respect him a great deal and am grateful for both his example and his friendship.

          2. Modeling is important, and we never grow out of needing it. We just grow into being one more and more. I peay often for my boys to be surrounded by godly people to model for them.

  2. Maybe pushing through an obstacle in our life is a test. That struggle you are pushing to overcome may just be the key to unlock something bigger in your life. On the other hand, it is just as you describe, an unworthy struggle. And how do we know if we don’t go through the struggle.

    I am having a struggle in my life right now. I intend to push through and develop that personal development program I have dreamed about for 20 years. The kids are gone. The house is quiet. I have the time. Yet, I struggle to start. I struggle to move forward. I struggle with my plan. My question is… am I on the right path or living a pipe dream. It is frustrating.

    I think I will mediate on it and pray about it. Thanks.

    1. Struggles do tend to be the key to unlocking the next step, that is for certain. Relationships – especially the one with God – is built and strengthened by going through struggles. If for no other reason, relationships are why we should push through and do our best to follow the signs along the way. There is great wisdom in simply meditating and praying before moving forward. Sometimes – often and usually – this waiting is where we God works and gets us ready for His perfect timing. I pray that you hear His wisdom and guidance as you pray and meditate on this dream.

  3. I have learned God makes all things beautiful in HIS time. Sometimes even if it is just a short break to refocus and say a prayer for guidance, turning to Him helps me know what to do next. Stop and wait, or keep pushing.

    1. That He definitely does. Too often, we forget to turn to Him for guidance (signs if you will) before we push forward. At least, that is a mistake I make frequently.

  4. This is so true. I've seen some of my greatest successes and my greatest lessons come from adapting to obstacles. Sometimes you plow through, sometimes you go around, sometimes you figure out another way entirely. It requires you to step back and look at what you really want to accomplish. It's easy sometimes to get so caught up in the obstacle that you forget why you're doing it in the first place. And the process teaches you creativity that will come in handy later in the next obstacle.

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