Onward and Upward

“Don’t expect positive breakthroughs to always be followed by smooth sailing. Climbing upward was never a low-energy exercise!”

I wrote that quote myself (as a Twitter Tweet on February 4) to remind myself that even when you reach a “sprint” stage in your progress, you’ll be disappointed if you expect to complete the rest of the marathon at that speed. After the past two weeks, I need that reminder–and regular prayer for spiritual protection–because things are going so well. My vocational focus has improved tremendously (“I am a freelance content writer specializing in behavioral health and life management, creating online articles and social-media content under per-month contract for hospitals and social service agencies”); I’ve made about twenty new contacts who are interested in sharing leads to potential clients; and I’ve already found one new long-term client with whom I struck an instant accord. I can see a substantial income surge on the horizon.

But there are dangers. I felt it last weekend as my shoulder throbbed with apparently psychosomatic pain and the old sense of depression fought to reassert dominance over a mind on break from work thoughts. I struggled through bursts of anger and anxiety early this week. I felt my will to fight against negative emotions (which is newly awakened to begin with) drop a couple of points in the past few days. I still worry over whether I am taking “enough” prayer time and letting my mind wander into “too much” or “the wrong kind” of daydreaming–and over whether I’m being “lazy” if my to-do list easily fits within the day’s parameters, or if I “won’t finish” when it doesn’t.

There was a time when I hoped to soon hit the one positive breakthrough that–regardless of what twists my circumstances or obligations took from there–would forever free me from frustration, uncertainty, and a sense of overwhelm. Now, I realize that even the most mature never reach that point to their full satisfaction. Spiritual growth is a never-ending process, and the final summit comes only with the soul’s “graduation” from Earth to Heaven.

Most of us take a long time to realize this; it’s not easy to accept. Everyone’s spiritual growth has its “Lewis and Clark at the Continental Divide” moments–as when, in August 1805, the famous expedition struggled to the top of the Divide confident of finding an easy stretch of plains and rivers for the rest of their journey, only to be greeted with a towering and seemingly endless stretch of Rocky Mountains. However hard or “plateaued” the climb has seemed up to then, that point is a key test of spiritual commitment: after the initial burst of disappointment mixed with despair, do we (A) turn back the way we came; (B) sit down and give up; or (C) say a prayer, take a deep breath, and push on?

Obviously, the last (and hardest) option is the correct answer. Yet many who think they choose (C) find themselves soon opting for (A) or (B) in a far easier test–because they really chose: (D) push on in the strength of your own will, letting the effort suck up your time and energy until you have little left to seek God’s guidance. Spiritual refreshment is as essential to sound functioning as are healthy food and sufficient sleep: neglect any of the above because you have “too much to do” (read: “I choose to hold myself responsible for singlehandedly getting this situation under control”), and your effectiveness will soon sputter out like a neglected car’s engine.

The better way was outlined by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:5-10, notably in verses 9-10: “[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. … For when I am weak, then I am strong” (NIV). Paul wrote that in reference to a period of his life where an incredibly uplifting spiritual experience was followed by a time of intense difficulty. His immediate reaction was to pray that his new problems would disappear. God had a different solution: “Don’t worry about what you can’t do. Yield everything to Me and trust My grace, and you’ll find that I can do more through you in your weak areas than in your strengths.”

Often our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses are conjoined twins: skill easily slips into pride, compassion into anxiety, conscientiousness into control mania. We can’t stay on the right side of the line in our own strength; that’s why a surge forward is all too frequently followed by a hard fall. The times when everything is going exceptionally well, and we’re traveling fast toward new heights, are when we most need to trust in God’s strength to carry us on, lest we get overconfident and step off His path in our enthusiasm. The inner struggles that assert themselves anew at the most inopportune moments, are really God’s mercy in keeping us from straying too far.

That’s when we find that His grace is truly sufficient for our journey.

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1 Comment

  1. Jo Swank

     /  February 6, 2015

    Amen! Beautiful insights, Kathy!!


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    Need a dose of hope and stress relief? Read my work. Need help sharing hope and stress relief through your own blog? Visit my website, www.HoustonFreelanceWriter.com, and learn about my content-writing services.

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