We all have a breaking point. That place where life and circumstances cause you to hit an emotional, physical, and spiritual wall. For some of us (all arrows pointing to me) that wall can come quickly and is easily aided and abetted by a spilled cup of coffee, a missed night of sleep, or sitting down to an empty toilet paper roll.
Others seem to have a superhuman strength and patience that confounds the rest of us. Wherever you land on the scale however, at some point…we ALL break. We all experience the frustration, angst, and weariness that comes from being human and realizing we’ve officially maxed out on the limits of our personal strength and fortitude.
That moment for me came one evening after having battled a virus running its course in my home. After a week of nursing my daughter back to health, I finally felt we’d rounded a corner. I’d successfully managed to get her to take her medicine through fits and tears, stayed up with her during the night when she hacked and coughed, and personally couriered about 300 or so tissues from her nose to the trash can. Victory…and a full night’s sleep were nearly in my grasp.
And then it hit my son.
I was done. I was frustrated. I was tired. My attitude stunk. My complaining was off the charts—both in my head and the under-my-breath mutterings. I desperately wanted my kids to feel better, yet the finish line seemed to keep moving further and further away. Thankfully, we did eventually cross the finish line, but in retrospect, there were some things I could have done differently to help better manage my emotions and navigate my circumstances more gracefully.
Over a steaming hot latte at one of my favorite java joints, God showed me a picture of what it looks like to successfully navigate a crisis and move from your breaking point to your breakthrough. For the record, it seems these gentle nudgings and communications often come to me through coffee, hot showers, or intimate conversations with friends. It must be a comfort thing. What I do love though, is that God speaks…a lot…and often, in unexpected ways.
The picture He showed me was of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, followed by his immediate arrest, and ending with his crucifixion. Not the prettiest of pictures, to say the least. He prayed until he literally sweated drops of blood, suffered the betrayal of a close and trusted friend, and endured a brutal beating and tortuous death by crucifixion. It was, in effect, the breaking point and culmination of his life and ministry—only he didn’t break down. He broke through.
“How?” I asked. “How did you go through one of the most physically, emotionally and mentally painful times of your life and not once get angry, lose your composure, or throw in the towel?”
That’s a loaded question to unpack, but what did immediately jump out at me were three principles to help move us from our breaking point to our breakthrough when we are walking through a dark time or moment of crisis.
Principle #1: Keep the Conversation Going
Jesus didn’t wait until the eleventh hour to cry out to God. He didn’t wait until his last reserves had dried up or attempt to rely solely on his own strength. He was in constant communion and conversation with the Father. He prayed in the Garden before the chaos of what was to come, and he prayed on the cross at the pinnacle of his suffering. Frankly, prayer was the hallmark of his ministry. He prayed often, many times privately, but also publicly—before and after miracles and healings—and with his disciples. He understood that constant, daily communication and conversations were necessary to sustain him—both in the highs and lows of life. The same is true for you and I. We were not meant to be “islands” and live life in isolation. We were built for relationships—and communication is key for both our sanity and survival. Keep praying, keep talking, keep engaging with others. When you do this consistently, especially when things are in non-crisis mode, you’ll be well equipped to maintain the conversation when a crisis hits and find the peace and help you need to carry you through the storm.
Principle #2: Turn Your Focus Outward
If you’ve ever watched the reality series, “Survivor,” there’s always a challenge that tests the physical limits of the contestants—tests designed to bring them excruciating nerve, muscle and body pain. The ones who endure and ultimately win said test are those who find a way to channel their focus and attention onto something other than their pain and circumstances. They’re focused on their victory. Likewise, Jesus in his ministry never lost sight of his end goal. In the midst of incredible pain, discomfort and betrayal, he kept his focus on others and not himself. In the Garden, he healed the soldier’s ear that had been cut off. On the cross, he extended mercy and salvation to the thief being crucified next to him and forgiveness to those who persecuted and mocked him. Whatever crisis you are facing—be it grief, financial, marital, as a parent, in your career, or your health—stay focused on your end goal…your victory…your breakthrough. If you’re in the quicksand of life right now and so focused on all the sinking muck and mire around you, you just might miss the branch hanging right over your head offering you a way out.
Principle #3: Be Willing To Let Go and Let Others
This may be equally both the hardest and easiest principle to apply, particularly for those of us who like to channel our inner Luisa from “Encanto.” She was the strong one, the one who shouldered all the burdens—literally—for her family. To ask for help or admit that she needed a break would signify weakness and failure on her part. Or so she thought. When we place those expectations on ourselves, we’re essentially doubling our burden and choosing to navigate the crushing weight of a crisis by way of our own strength. At his physically weakest point, when Jesus could no longer carry his own cross toward Golgotha—the place of his crucifixion—Simon of Cyrene stepped in to help carry it for him. It doesn’t really matter that Simon was “volun-told” to do it by the Roman soldiers. The bigger picture here is that we all need Simons in our life. When help is offered, accept it. When you need help, ask for it. Receiving help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of maturity. And it makes crossing that finish line all the sweeter when we can celebrate our breakthrough with those who helped us get there.