“There’s no going back from here. Do you want to turn back, mom?”
My daughter and I rested on a fallen tree near the well-marked trail basking in the sunlight. She fully realized my weaknesses and lovingly offered me time to catch my breath and assess the options. Her question was from a place of care and protection for me, but as her words settled on my mind a painful arrow hit the bullseye of conviction within my heart. For years, self-reliance had been my path. I counted on ME to reach goals and solve problems, setting high expectations for myself. Inevitably when life presented challenges or the pursuit of a goal seemed too hard, unattainable, or simply took too long to reach fruition, I quit. I chased quick answers and immediate results. As the arrow of her question hit its mark, my mind raced down that familiar path. Should I quit?
But something stirred in me. This time I sensed a different outcome. A ripening new conviction filled my soul.
Vacationing in New Mexico, my daughter and I were about two miles into a 6.7-mile easy loop hike just outside Ruidoso. As an experienced hiker, she recognized we were at the point of no return. If we proceeded farther on the trail, it would be futile to turn back. She knew my limitations better than anyone else—obesity, chronic back issues, and a recent diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Yes, those were my limitations, but the strength of my God quickly maneuvered a u-turn in my mind. That initial, but momentary thought of quitting was quickly displaced by something different—an unexpected strength.
SEEDS OF PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE
Most of my life I attended church and participated in a checklist of Christian activities, but quiet time with God wasn’t a priority. Studying His Word wasn’t jotted down on my to-do list. The choices made in my young adult years cultivated an inner-dependence on me alone—my self-reliance assuring me I carried the burden of my own success. I determined my worth by successes and failures and refused to grade myself on a curve. Under the crushing weight of critique, I often chose to quit rather than face such a harsh scale. Yet quitting undermined my confidence as it equated to a sense of failure fueled by the lies Satan lodged at me. Each time I quit something, I became increasingly convinced God didn’t love someone who failed like I did. As I chased my own ways and sought instant gratification promised by the world, my weight issues grew into full-grown obesity and spread like weeds into chronic back issues.
But God is patient.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Out of His own patient love for us, He will plant seeds of patience in us if we allow Him to enter the fertile soil of our minds.
Contrary to the promises of instant gratification heralded by the world, patience is a virtue encouraged by God. When we walk with Christ, we die to our old ways and the passions of this world. We trade the pursuit of instant gratification for that of patience. As we cultivate patience in our thoughts and attitude, we begin to exhibit patience outwardly in our lives. It is in those moments we are rewarded with seeing the world through God’s eyes.
About three hours into our hike, patience and persistence paid off. Now well past the halfway mark, my daughter stopped and pointed, “Mom, look!” Far down below, rays of sunlight danced on the glistening lake that marked the start of our trail. The sparkling waters kissed by the golden sun hung in the sky by our majestic Creator. Amazed, I glanced upward to see nothing but crystal blue sky, and I realized we stood among the tree line at the peak of the mountain. My heart nearly burst. How did I get up here from all the way down there?
CONFIDENCE FROM CRAVING JESUS
Over the past few years, time and time again, God had revealed credible evidence of His unending patience toward me. My daughter’s question echoed in my mind: “Do you want to turn back?” I retraced where I had been to where I now sat on the trail. Just last year, on another family vacation on another easy hike in Big Bend National Park, I was forced to quit the trail and sit out due to my weight and back issues. If I couldn’t even walk a mile on a flat walking track last year, why did I think I could hike a mountain trail this year? But what a difference 365 days with God makes! This year I was more than forty pounds lighter, fueling my body with nutritious foods. I’d worked to slowly re-strengthen my body with gentle water aerobics and light stretches. For the first time in my adult life, I had a remarkable and unshakeable inner confidence that I was solidly on a path to wellness that would not fail, and I would not quit.
Why? God was guiding my way and walking alongside my every step. When I started my journey, I chose to follow God, not myself. He reminds me daily that it will take patience and perseverance.
These interactions of dependency have not always been a reality. God knocked on the door of my heart many times, for many years; I just refused to answer, convinced of my independent ways. But God is persistent, and He is patient. He faithfully pursued me—despite my choices—just as He pursues you.
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:4-7).
In His pursuit of us, Jesus longs to break through our chains of captivity and our pursuit of earthly gratification. I simply refused to answer His knock. Until one day—I stopped resisting His invitation, admitted defeat, and surrendered to Him. Giving up on me, I looked to Him. Quitting never felt so good!
I opened the Word of God and studied it one book at a time. His Word satisfied a deep yearning, one that food never satiated. I found myself craving more time with Him, so I prioritized time in the Bible every day. As I slowly soaked in His promises, God planted seeds of patience that would bud, grow a healthy stem, and eventually bloom into perseverance. Each day God met me with loving arms wide open, welcoming me into His embrace, encouraging me to fling open the door to the freedom He offered. There I found a garden of peace, a refuge. Walking through the garden together, God rearranged my priorities and my perspective, freeing me from my self-imposed chains. Each chain unlocked as I discovered God’s steadfast character, His promises, His never-ending love for me, and the endless mercy of His grace. When abiding in His garden, He tills the virtues of patience and persistence that provide a godly confidence in the face of adversity and challenges.
FUELING WITH GOD’S PROMISES
When we intentionally choose to seek and understand God’s truths, His promises soak into the roots of our souls creating a reservoir of untapped strength within. Instead of Satan’s lies, we hear God’s assurances: You are fearfully and wonderfully made; I knit you in your mother’s womb and I know every hair on your head; I give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak; I go before you and will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you; do not be afraid; do not be discouraged (Psalm 139:13-14, Luke 12:7, Isaiah 40:29, Deuteronomy 31:8). These promises knit together to fuel us with confidence as we face the challenges and hardships of everyday life.
With daily doses of His love, God planted seeds that bloomed into the truths that I was worth taking care of and loving. That’s how I landed on that trail in New Mexico. Those blooms of truth convinced me I could tackle my health issues the same way God transformed my mind.
One day at a time.
As I spent time in God’s Word, God revealed that victory was found in His way, not mine. With patience and perseverance, He filled me with confidence to rise to the challenge of this hike. And as the arrow of my daughter’s question pierced my convictions at that point of no return, God’s promises were the source of my unexpected strength. In the stillness of our time together, I learned to trust that my Lord fights for me (Exodus 14:14). God fought to crowd out the weeds of self-reliance, quitting, and instant gratification I had chased for so long. With healthy stems of patience, God’s fulfilled promises bloomed fully in my mind and in my heart.
I didn’t quit that day on the trail. Instead, I trusted God’s promises. In answer to my daughter’s question, I stood victoriously pumping my fist in the air, “I can do this!”
A HEAVENLY FOCUS
Whether the challenge was completing that hike, commitment to my weight-loss journey, or battling rheumatoid arthritis, I trusted the patience, persistence, strength, and might of my God. I understood His steadfast love and faithful promises. Just like the lost sheep, God never quits pursuing us.
In those years of counting on me, quitting was always an option. With God as my dwelling place, quitting is no longer an option.
Patience grooms us to endure the hardships of this world and harvest a permanent focus on our one true hope—an eternity with our Heavenly Father, free of the temporary pains and challenges of this life. Secure in the knowledge of eternity with Him, we can have the patience and perseverance to complete our walk on earth well—walking in a manner worthy of God’s call on our lives.
Just as we deadhead our earthly gardens of dried up blooms to encourage the growth of vibrant blooms, practicing patience helps us cultivate the beautiful blooms of a heavenly focus. Pluck the dead blooms of instant gratification, self-reliance, and quitting. Let the blooms of pursuing God’s will and His ways thrive. Allow His love and promises to soak in the roots of our souls. The nutrients of God’s Word will move us from doubt to confidence, from the pursuit of instant gratification to the cultivation of patience and perseverance. It will move us from a meek “I quit” to a bold “I can!”
It took four hours and 21 minutes of patience and perseverance that day to finish the entire hike. My daughter was right; there was no turning back. It was challenging and long, but not once did we stumble. On that trail, every ravine we crossed warned of the consequence of a wrong or unsure step, but my spiritually soaked heart no longer held space for quitting. Each day spent dwelling in God’s Word fertilized the seeds God began planting the day I opened His book and accepted His invitation to abide.
Filled with newfound patience, perseverance, and perspective, I can declare with confidence that God is my refuge and my strength.
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