July 17, 2017
Life is hard sometimes.
When you’ve worked as hard as you possibly could and yet you failed to make the grade, your dreams remain out of reach, and you feel you just can’t do it anymore, you can feel like giving up.
All of us have probably felt that way at some time or another. Maybe you’ve been in that situation recently. In fact, maybe you feel that way right now.
When you’re getting pounded and slammed again and again, how do you get through it?
I know how. You do too.
You keep going!
No matter what, you just keep going! As Winston Churchill said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Okay, that might be oversimplifying a complex issue, but really, in order to accomplish anything significant, you have to keep fighting day after day, no matter what roadblocks you run into. In the face of disappointment or even failure, that’s the time to try again, work harder, study more, and pray desperately.
All great accomplishments take a lot of work and time; they don’t come easily. When progress is slow and our plans or dreams are not coming together as quickly as we’d hoped, it’s easy to wonder if something is wrong. More often, however, I believe that when we hit a brick wall we’re simply going through the normal paces required for progress and success. It’s not that we have to give more or sacrifice more than most others. No, that’s just the road to accomplishment.
If we embark on a new adventure and expect quick results, if that doesn’t happen, or more likely when that doesn’t happen, we can become disappointed and even disillusioned. And even worse, we can be tempted to quit. If we can realize that God’s path for us isn’t likely to be an easy road, then we’ll face the challenges with enthusiasm, and we won’t be caught off guard or derailed when working toward our goals is much more confusing, taxing, and time-consuming than we anticipated.
God works with each of us differently. We are each on our own personal paths that can lead us to both beautiful vistas and dark valleys at different stages of our journey.
Tony Snow explained the challenges of life as follows:
God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease—smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see—but God likes to go off-road. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension—and yet don’t. By His love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.
Tony Snow, age 51 and father of three, declared those inspiring words when he was in the midst of fighting cancer.1
There are many different approaches to facing setbacks and disappointments. I don’t think there’s one perfect formula for overcoming difficulties. There’s no set list of “must do’s” if you’re looking to muster up courage and strength to endure fear, stress, heartache, frustration, or any of the other challenges that accompany the dry spells in our lives. Some things that can help us get through the worst of times are praying and asking others to pray with or for us; seeking the advice of a trusted friend or mentor; taking some time away from the situation to think, regain perspective, and get a better overall understanding of what our options are; hearing from the Lord; reading the Word and inspirational or comforting writings; or having a heart-to-heart talk with a loved one.
I often find inspiration from true stories about people who have accomplished great things in the face of hardship or handicap. Sports provide some great examples along these lines because they’re such public examples and there’s a clear means of measuring their accomplishments. For example:
During a Monday night football game between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, one of the announcers observed that Walter Payton, the Bears’ running back, had accumulated over nine miles in career rushing yardage. The other announcer remarked, “Yeah, and that’s with somebody knocking him down every 4.6 yards!” Walter Payton, the most successful running back ever, knows that everyone—even the very best—gets knocked down. The key to success is to get up and run again just as hard.2
Sometimes great athletes have overcome tremendous odds. This adds to their amazing stories of courage and perseverance, such as the story of Wilma Rudolph.
[She] didn’t get much of a head start in life. A bout with polio left her left leg crooked and her foot twisted inward so she had to wear leg braces. After seven years of painful therapy, she could walk without her braces. At age 12 Wilma tried out for a girls’ basketball team, but didn’t make it. Determined, she practiced with a girlfriend and two boys every day. The next year she made the team. When a college track coach saw her during a game, he talked her into letting him train her as a runner. By age 14 she had outrun the fastest sprinters in the U.S. In 1956 Wilma made the U.S. Olympic team, but showed poorly. That bitter disappointment motivated her to work harder for the 1960 Olympics in Rome—and there Wilma Rudolph won three gold medals, the most a woman had ever won.3
Sports isn’t the only arena that requires vision and persistence. You can find great examples in all walks of life, including business. Here’s a fairly well-known story.
Automobile genius Henry Ford once came up with a revolutionary plan for a new kind of engine which we know today as the V-8. Ford was eager to get his great new idea into production. He had some men draw up the plans, and presented them to the engineers. As the engineers studied the drawings, one by one they came to the same conclusion. Their visionary boss just didn’t know much about the fundamental principles of engineering. He’d have to be told gently—his dream was impossible.
Ford said, “Produce it anyway.” They replied, “But it’s impossible.” “Go ahead,” Ford commanded, “and stay on the job until you succeed, no matter how much time is required.”
For six months they struggled with drawing after drawing, design after design. Nothing. Another six months. Nothing. At the end of the year Ford checked with his engineers and they once again told him that what he wanted was impossible. Ford told them to keep going. They did. And they discovered how to build a V-8 engine.4
I think we can minimize a lot of the frustration or confusion we might encounter if we adopt the attitude that reaching our goals will take time, there’s no way around that. And it’s a sure thing there will be setbacks, but if we persist through them, eventually we’ll find success.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.5
Let’s remember, too, that setbacks are not indicative of God’s displeasure or that you’re missing the mark or out of His will in some way; they’re simply the natural course of life and part of the journey to any accomplishment. So it helps to not catastrophize when we run into problems or delays, because thinking negatively about our challenges dampens our faith and the positive action that’s required to push through the difficulty. Instead of lamenting how hard our lives are or how terribly everything is going, it’s more effective to fill our minds with God’s faith-building Word, encouraging stories of overcoming, and empowering thoughts and positive statements.
Sometimes I set goals, but then whatever I’m working toward ends up taking so much longer than I planned or expected. Often things don’t happen according to our timetable; but maybe God has a different timetable, in accordance with His overarching plan. If we have faith and determination, then we won’t just quit and make excuses when something doesn’t work out as we had hoped. That would be a cop-out, and that’s not going to bring about the end goal of our living the lives we’re hoping for. As Helen Keller reportedly said: “A bend in the road is not the end of the road… Unless you fail to make the turn.”
Life can’t always be balanced. Sometimes you’ll find that you’re doing double or triple time; there’s work, the children, studying, managing the house, caring for a sick or disabled loved one or child, and on and on it goes. Those really tough times are what a friend of mine calls “the kill years.” That’s when you’re way busier than you want to be, you’re getting very little sleep and exercise, you have almost no free time, and you’re absolutely exhausted. And on top of that, you often don’t see the progress or success you had hoped for.
Yep, those are the “kill years.” It’s hard. And yet you just have to push through. You just have to keep going.
Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.―Theodore Roosevelt
Whether you’re studying, starting a business, pursuing a new career, learning a new skill, or whatever you’re busy doing, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll face challenges—a lot of challenges! And this certainly applies to those who are pioneering or building a mission work. Often it takes a long time before you see fruit, and you might face difficulties or opposition along the way. Sometimes we hear or read about men or women who accomplished great things for the Lord, and we might conclude that they found success and favor easily. But we are likely not seeing the full story. Take this example from the diary of the great evangelist and founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley:
Sunday, A.M., May 5 Preached in St. Anne’s. Was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday, P.M., May 5 Preached in St. John’s. Deacons said “Get out and stay out.”
Sunday, A.M., May 12 Preached in St. Jude’s. Can’t go back there, either.
Sunday, A.M., May 19 Preached in St. Somebody Else’s. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return.
Sunday, P.M., May 19 Preached on street. Kicked off street.
Sunday, A.M., May 26 Preached in meadow. Chased out of meadow as bull was turned loose during service.
Sunday, A.M., June 2 Preached out at the edge of town. Kicked off the highway.
Sunday, P.M., June 2 Afternoon, preached in a pasture. Ten thousand people came out to hear me.
There are many true stories, like this one, that illustrate the magic that happens when you refuse to surrender in the face of difficulty. Each of those stories is a testimony to the power of perseverance.
The takeaway for our lives is this: When we don’t quit, anything is possible.
“Don’t ever give up. Don’t ever give in. Don’t ever stop trying. Don’t ever sell out. And if you find yourself succumbing to one of the above for a brief moment, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, whisper a prayer, and start where you left off. But never, ever, ever give up.”6
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”7
Originally published September 2014. Excerpted and republished July 2017.
Read by Jason Lawrence.
1 Former White House Press Secretary, he wrote “Cancer’s Unexpected Blessings,” published in Christianity Today, July 20, 2007. Tony Snow died at the age of 53 of colon cancer.
2 Jeff Quandt as quoted in Irving Wallace, The Book of Lists (New York: Bantam Books, 1980).
3 Today in the Word, Moody Bible Institute, January 1992, p. 10.
4 Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich (Meridien, Conn: The Ralston Society, 1937).
5 James 1:2–4 ESV.
6 Richelle E. Goodrich, Eena, The Tempter’s Snare (2014).
7 Galatians 6:9 ESV.
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