When I run long distances, I often get to a point where I do not want to continue. Some people call it “hitting the wall.” Of course, if you break through that wall, common wisdom says that running gets easier.
There are other times, however, when I struggle while I’m running because of pains that indicate I should stop running. Recently, I began to feel a tightness in my leg and decided to slow down and eventually stop. In other words, I did not try to “push through the wall” in that case.
So, when I’m running, I have to pay very close attention to my body to understand when I should push through the pain and struggle and when I should stop.
Something similar happens in our lives. Sometimes, when we struggle, we are supposed to push through and persevere in spite of the struggles, trusting that God is going to give us the strength and grace to continue. At other times, struggles are an indication that God is telling us that we are headed in the wrong direction and that we should stop or turn in a different direction.
But, how do we tell the difference?
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know how important Scripture is to me. But, in this case, we cannot find the answer to this question in Scripture. In fact, we find BOTH answers in Scripture.
For example, at times when Paul faced difficulties in a city, he would leave that city and go in a different direction:
But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. (Acts 17:13-14 ESV)
At other times, when Paul faced difficulties in a city, he remained in that city:
But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:9-10 ESV)
(By the way, if you read though Acts 19, you’ll find that Paul faced many struggles while in Ephesus.)
So, when you face struggles, how do you know if God is telling you that you are going in the wrong direction or if God is telling you that it’s time to persevere through the struggles?