Welcome to the second week of Lent and our series on the Easter story. This season is a great opportunity for reflection–to check in with yourself, your relationships, your work and your faith. Lent can be a powerful time of the year to slow down, focus on the health of your soul, and become more aware of the voice of the Holy Spirit in your life.
If you caught last week’s blog, I invited our readers to do one of three things:
- Continue your spiritual rhythms as you have been so far this year
- Reintroduce lapsed practices you have let lie dormant or make them a more regular part of your daily routine
- Foster a new sense of curiosity you’ve been desiring by introducing new disciplines into your daily routine
We are following the Stations of the Cross, particularly the seven most relevant to our series. Last week, we examined how Jesus was forced to carry his own cross, and means of death, to the place of his execution. This is where he physically began the journey towards his purpose here on earth.
This week we’re examining when Jesus falls for the first time as he carries the heavy cross toward the site of his execution. This is a reminder to us of Jesus’s very physical limits. Jesus came to earth fully human, with the same capabilities as you and me. It must have been a humbling moment, full of pain and exhaustion for Jesus. It was his strong calling and perfect love that pushed Him to get up again.
I find comfort in the words of the psalmist: “But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone...” (Psalm 73:2 NLT )
In our own lives we face moments of “loose footing.” It’s rarely something as drastic as Jesus falling while walking towards his own death, but we all have hundreds of moments where we fail, suffer, and face all kinds of setbacks and obstacles. From a flat tire on our way to work to a life-altering event, we face difficulties we must overcome. In these moments, it can feel tempting to give up. The more challenging the situation is, the more we often want to escape–find any road that will get us away from where we are so we may find peace again. It is much harder to push on as Jesus did, yes it is necessary to accomplish what must be done. If you never pushed through moments of difficulty, think about where you would be now! And as you look ahead to difficulties on the horizon, knowing what you have overcome in the past, knowing what Jesus overcame, can give us the confidence to keep going. Jesus faced this ultimate hardship to show us that we all can get back up again.
Last week I shared my dark night of the soul journey from last year at this time. One lesson I learned, relearned, and took a remedial course on, was how to get back up when I stumbled. I experienced some very difficult emotional and spiritual challenges that led me down dark paths with seemingly no exit. It wasn’t until I began integrating new spiritual disciplines that I was able to navigate The Wall, which I describe as a “spiritual fog.”
I share these practices with you so that maybe you, too, can have added tools to help you navigate the inevitable “Wall” that we all experience from time to time.
Three practices to help you navigate difficult times:
- Gratitude – start my day by writing out things for which I am grateful.
- Centering Prayer (also called clearing prayer or meditation) – ask the Lord for a word and focus on that word only in order to clear my mind.
- Intercessory prayer – ask the Lord what and whom to pray for and the best way to pray for them.
These new habits are helping me strengthen the spiritual muscles that keep me moving forward.
When reality is too painful
When times are tough we have choices to make. From my vantage point, when times are rough the typical evangelical church is not prepared to help people navigate those moments well. You have probably had times–or know someone who has– when you have experienced difficult moments and lacked the ability, strength or intuition to know what to do. Here are three reasons why we find ourselves in pain and do not often see a way forward.
- Incompatibility: the current evangelical pathway of spiritual formation does not take into account The Wall (difficult, life-altering experiences)
- Inability: leaders are not equipped to help others down a pathway (especially if they themselves have not journeyed this way before)
- Avoidance: the intensity of the pain is so great that the solution seems unbearable (this can lead the individual believer to avoid The Wall altogether)
Because of the above, many people never reach the later stages of spiritual formation. This is a sad reality and one reason why, in my humble opinion, the church in the West has not matured spiritually. My encouragement to you is to press on (or should I say “stand up”) when you stumble. Do not take the easy way out! Do the hard work and “heavy lifting” required to pick yourself up when you are down.
Questions for reflection:
- Where do you feel you have overcome obstacles before?
- What helped you to push through those difficult moments?
- What have you learned from your failures and difficulties?
- How have your own obstacles helped you to become a better leader?
- What obstacles are you facing today?
- What is the result you are hoping for and why does it matter?
- What do you need to do to set yourself up for a fruitful season during Lent?
I’ll close with a quote from Jeremiah 6:16 (NLT)
“Stop at the crossroads and look around.
Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it.
Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.”
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