Perhaps you've heard the saying "It's not how you start, it's how you finish." It's a new year. Of course it's natural to reset and renew our desires to set and achieve audacious goals at the beginning of a fresh season. The gyms are crowded. Diet programs have an uptick in membership and subscriptions. Online dating sites are brimming with new profiles. We all have our sights set on becoming more, achieving more, finding more and doing more.
But slowly, we lose our vision. Progress is slow. Obstacles appear. Schedules are busy. Our resolve weakens. Our mindsets soften and we find ourselves back in the routine of the same ole', same ole' and we lose sight of what we so clearly saw as possible.
The years of 2013 -2016 for me were filled with experiences, blessings and God’s abundant provision and replenishment. They took the form of exciting job offers, fast promotions, accolades, trips and travel, home ownership, cars, and watching my children thrive. Considering the three years before that were the absolute most difficult years of my life financially, emotionally and mentally, I felt as if I had finally been blessed by God for enduring such hardship. Anyone who knew me at that time knew without a doubt that God was certainly up to something beautiful in my life because the amount of blessing that occurred in those three short years was astounding. I was in constant fellowship with God and my church community, I was on fire in my faith and I was ready to save the world.
The more He provided, the more I unplugged. The slow fade was unnoticeable at first.
One missed Sunday worship.
One morning without opening my bible.
One week of no small group.
One month of not hearing Him.
One year of feeling unheard.
Before I knew it, I was deep in a spiritual funk. I couldn't hear God anymore. I felt as if I had been removed from His hands. As faint as my prayer life was then, my heart was screaming out to see him again.
Mid 2017, I went on a hike through Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin. I was with a friend who hired a trained hiking expert and guide to take us through a very secluded, uncharted area of the park. The guide led and I took up the rear. As our hike commenced we walked a very narrow path which eventually came to an end. No more markings. No more signposts. We had to watch our footing so as to not stumble and fall.
At one point on our trek, I was so overcome with the dense brush, and I quickly I lost sight of my two hiking partners. They gradually faded into the forest. after a couple minutes of not being able to view them, I panicked and yelled out “Hold please!" Our guide calmly and gently replied “I can hear you, but you just lost sight of me. You need to remain close by.” It hit me.
This is why I have been feeling my funk. This is why I couldn't see him. God could hear me, but I took my eyes off my guide. I left the narrow path. I stopped reading the signposts and I stopped being careful with my footing, I wandered off and I stumbled.
Suddenly scripture lit up my heart and this verse roared in my mind -
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me." John 15:4
A verse about branches and vines is seriously so appropriate when you are in a forest overcome by them! Remain indicates a close, intimate and permanent relationship with God that doesn't wander off or stays close. I wasn't abiding fully in Christ, I was getting by empty without him. He didn't move, I did. He was right there with his eyes on me the whole time. I was the one who replaced him in my focus with life, worry, busyness, worldly pursuits.
And so it is with new goals and new dreams. Life becomes like the dense brush in the forest and we lose sight of the path we set to get us to where we want to go. If we are only relying on ourselves, we will burn out in the race to the finish line. When we allow God to be our trail guide, he will clear the path and keep our hearts and focus where we need it to stay continually progressing forward. Remaining in him guarantees we will have everything we need to finish strong.
Success in anything comes not because it is tied to something fleeting, but someone eternal. That is the greatest benefit when God is our guide and we abide in Him. He will never disappoint. He will never let us down, even in the darkest of times, because He will never abandon us. There's hope in front of you. His hands are holding you, even when you don't believe it. He can hear you, did you just lose sight of Him?