When I (Bill) ran the Boston Marathon a few years ago, many challenges came against me—the heat and humidity rose into the 90s and runners dropped from leg cramps, dehydration, and heatstroke. I hit hard into The Wall that marathon runners dread: I was exhausted, my legs were like lead, and I had shooting pains radiating up from my feet. I wanted to quit! But I kept running till the finish line at 26.2 miles.
How did I do it? How did I get through The Wall and complete the marathon? I held on to Hebrews 12 in my heart:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Vv. 1–3).
As I ran, I prayed this Scripture to myself over and over to fix my eyes on Jesus. I drew empathy and hope from my Lord: He felt my fatigue and pain and he endured with joy to the finish line of his cross (Vv. 2–3).
I also absorbed empathy and hope from the crowd of half a million people lining the streets of Boston as people kept clapping and shouting out, “You’re doing great! You can do it!” These people were like Jesus’ cloud of witnesses encouraging me (v. 1).
Kristi was in that crowd, and in the middle of the race, she ran and gave me a hug and kiss. She helped me accept my limits and cast off the burden of expecting myself to finish the marathon in a fast time. I became content with running at a slower pace, so I got through The Wall with Jesus and finished the race.
On your journey of the soul with Christ, The Wall is the place where exhaustion, pain, grief, unanswered questions, doubt, discouragement, aloneness, or spiritual dryness seem to block your progress.
Here are four steps that can help you to break through The Wall and into a new season of renewal:
1. Fix Your Eyes on Jesus
In my race, the support of Kristi and the cheering crowd helped me to join Jesus’ love relationship with the Father and draw on his joy to strengthen me to the finish line. Each of us needs fresh wells of living water for our souls as we run our race (John 7:38).
2. Ask Others for Empathy and Prayer
Like many people, you may avoid being emotionally vulnerable with others or asking for support and prayer. But even Jesus asked people to pray for him when he was in desolation (Matt. 26:36–41). That’s what I did in my race. Asking a trusted friend or spiritual director to listen to your concerns and pray for you is a source of encouragement and freedom.
3. Find Hope
In your life race, it’s a normal part of the journey to encounter The Wall. If you see the CHRIST stages in Journey of the Soul as a map of your journey this can help you to resist self-judging and shaming in trials. You can set your hope on the Spirit of Jesus with you in your trial and renewing you in deeper grace and intimacy with God.
4. Unburden Yourself
In ministry and service, we may experience compassion fatigue. We may burn out on praying through lists of petitions, Bible study, and daily disciplines. We can give ourselves permission to step away from what’s become burdensome and learn to rest in God’s grace in new ways.
At The Wall, we need to change up our soul care practices. Surprisingly, often the best ways to engage God in a dark or dry season are through simple, nonreligious activities like enjoying nature, reading poetry, taking a nap as you meditate on a Bible verse, or engaging in soul talk.
©️ Bill & Kristi Gaultiere, Journey of the Soul, Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2021. Adapted and used by permission.
Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: Bill and Kristi discuss the painful experience of the Wall, where God seems distant and it can be difficult to trust his presence in our lives. Bill and Kristi are well-acquainted with this stage of the spiritual journey and offer great compassion, encouragement, and insight into the sacred work happening at the Wall. Listen in for a soul talk that will help you name honestly what you or others you love and lead are experiencing as well as take hope and courage for next steps in your journey of the soul.