I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been there, or at some point will be—wondering, “How do I get UNstuck?”
Being stuck is different than going around the proverbial mountain again. After all, when we’re stuck, we would gladly accept another trip around the mountain, as we can more readily perceive the lesson to be learned; all we need to do is learn it, and voila! Off we go to somewhere new.
But here we are in Stuckland.
We’ve run the gamut of causes for such a destination, and potential exit strategies. Time ticked on and … nothing. To an achievement-oriented person, this is unacceptable, not to mention infuriating. And we repeat: what gives?
Where did we go wrong? Perhaps this is our lot in life?
No. It’s not! We punch right back as we stare down the man in the mirror, and we fight some more.
We try to ward off critics. Everyone has their opinion on what to do and how.
People suggest praying, but if you’re a praying individual, you will say, “I do pray, but not much has changed.” You note not much, because there were times you saw God intervene and it was like coming up for air. But you were quickly under water again, swimming. Ease is not in the vocabulary and the days of coasting are long gone. You fight the rough sea waters and swim on.
Alone with your thoughts as you swim, you wonder about prayer. It seems to be another bogie—prayer and fasting are supposed to work. We are tempted to conclude they’re pointless: “Look at where I’m at,” we retort naively, bitterly, whatever adverb you’d like to aptly use.
We’re convinced we’ve prayed every prayer imaginable, and the Lord hasn’t come through for us: “I’m right where I began.”
But what if we’ve been seeing it wrong all along?
Please don’t stop reading. I know … it’s tough for me to say that, but I think it’s true. I’ve lived stuck-ness, and my feathers would be ruffled if I read an article suggesting I’ve been seeing life wrong when I have literally dotted every “i,” crossed every “t,” and lived by faith in all the ways I knew how.
But I believe I have been seeing it wrong all along.
Paul writes to the Corinthians. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17,18, NIV). Read all of chapter 4 to understand the context of this verse. It’s about living through stuck-ness as jars of clay, showing the power of God.
Knowing what we know about Paul’s missionary life, I take his references about hardship and purposed perspective seriously. He understood being stuck, both literally and figuratively!
Let’s take his exhortation to the Corinthians personally. He’s telling us that our difficult experiences—and he qualifies them as light and momentary—are achieving in us an eternal glory that far outweighs those troubles. He then gives us a key: “… so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.”
Why does he say we fix our eyes on what is unseen? Because it’s the eternal part. It’s the part that changes us into the person we think the place we’re trying to get to will allow us to become. The troubles do not give us eternal glory, but the object of our gaze does.
This is transformational! As we press on and allow our eyes to feast upon the truth, goodness and love of God, we gain eternal glory. The temporary becomes secondary. And every day that we set our gaze upon our triune God, we receive greater understanding of who He is, walk more in the power of His Spirit and become more like Him. All the while our circumstances may be the same, but they are secondary and pale in comparison. They do not move us; He moves us.
Once this truth penetrates, we become the Pauls and Silases on the prison floor, singing hymns, unmoved by our circumstances, offering praise to our Lord regardless of our real or perceived imprisonment. The notion that our prayers are futile flee with this widening view of life and beauty.
And then we leave Stuckland, or it morphs into a hospitable land. However it happens, one thing is true: We’re not the same as when we arrived. Our edge is less, we have more grace and we hunger more for the things of God.
It is a level of acceptance, but only unto a higher principle. When I accept the things I cannot change and begin to give less resistance within to those areas of my life that constrict me, I am free. I am free to love, to embrace, to live today. I am free to stop deferring life, to see others and offer whatever I may have. I am free to be me and to trust that God really means what He says: He is good and is good toward me. I am free to pursue knowledge of Him; I cannot exhaust it. I am free.
The popular Serenity Prayer perfectly captures this idea:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.
May it be so with us.
May we understand that our prayer life is rich and vibrant, and is perfected in the storms and trials of life. When we lift our praise to God and give thanksgiving when everything says we shouldn’t, others see the treasure within us and know—they just know!—it is the power of God, not of us.
Lord, forgive us for allowing circumstances to dictate the attitude of our hearts and to be the focus of our attention. We turn to You, Lord, the One worthy of our gaze, who makes our hearts glad. Stir the flame within us, Holy Spirit, that we would desire You more, that praise would increase on our lips, that we would be filled with the knowledge of You, God. Give us the courage to change what we can, the peace to accept what we cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference. We bless You, Lord, and thank You for guiding us. In Jesus’ name, amen.