Crouched and ready to spring forward at the sound of the shot, you stare at the hurdles in front of you with anticipation.
You’ve practiced, stretched, and warmed up, and you’re ready to take on the obstacles ahead.
The finish line lies within reach, but only after you clear the hurdles in front of you.
You can almost taste it.
You’re a hurdler. It’s what you do—strategically jump over the obstacles set before you.
At the same time, these hurdles don’t define you. They make up a critical part of the race, but what is more important is how you run the race.
In a few moments that feel like forever, you will be at the finish line, glancing back at what you have just overcome.
You’ve done this before, so you know what to expect. But every race is different. As much as you prepare, there are always changing variables.
You plan, pray, and strategize, but in the end, you run the race with a big leap of faith.
You take a deep breath and spring forward when the shot rings out.
Hurdling through Life
Maybe you’ve never jumped hurdles in a track event, but you can probably relate to the hurdler in some ways.
The truth is, we all face obstacles in every facet of life, work included. It’s easy to let these setbacks define us, but it’s also critical to learn from them.
As you consider the obstacles in your own life, ask yourself:
- What is my response to these obstacles?
- How are the obstacles shaping me?
- What are the outcomes of facing and overcoming my obstacles?
From spilled coffee or a broken hot water heater to an idea shot down, an argument with a coworker, or a project derailed, we face them every day. Some are more tragic, like a terminal illness or the loss of a loved one.
Minute or monumental, challenges remind us that this is not the way things ought to be.
Broken relationships, natural disasters, illness, poverty, and hardships painfully remind us that sin runs rampant over all of God’s earth.
Sometimes circumstances are completely out of our control—a hurricane, a market slump, a company buyout.
Other times, our obstacles are internal where we have more control. We all stumble and fall over our own sin rooted in pride, greed, self-doubt, insecurity, fear, and envy.
Just like the hurdler, there are paths we expect and choose, and there are always some elements outside of our control.
Provoking the Idols of Our Heart
When things don’t go our way, we get frustrated, embarrassed, angry, upset, and dejected.
Our insecurities come out.
Some people fight, others flee.
In our hearts, we gripe and groan as we lose control.
Challenges at work and at home provoke the idols of our heart, leaving us with an opportunity to lean on the Lord or take matters into our hands. An innate desire for control usually dissuades us from looking to the Lord.
We are told in Proverbs 3:5-6,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
When we lose control, we doubt God. We doubt his goodness, his providence, and his power. In our unbelief, we can even doubt his love for us, that he sees our problems and cares. We forget that:
God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5).
God’s love for us is so vast that he gave up his most precious son to give us life forever. A love so sacrificial cares about it all—from spilled coffee to severe loss.
In our obstacles, we must preach truth to our denying hearts and let go of our idolatrous grip on control. God’s love envelops all our hardship, never leaving us to tackle challenges alone.
Counting on the power and providence of the Lord instead of our own strength guarantees we can run the race well. Deuteronomy 31:6 reminds us,
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.
We cross the finish line, perhaps a little battered and bruised, but we are not alone and we are stronger for it.
Editor’s Note: Get further perspective on your obstacles by seeing them through the lens of God’s big-picture story in All Things New: Rediscovering the Four-Chapter Gospel.
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On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was previously published on Oct. 22, 2015.