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What to Do When You Hit the Wall

What to Do When You Hit the Wall

BerlinSteglitzVorMatthauskircheLeidAnDerMauer(UnexpectedDeath)Runners know all about breaking through that moment when they ‘hit the wall’ and cannot go another step…but then they do it! Whenever we try to accomplish a goal, make progress in learning, or move forward up a steep hill of some kind, we often hit the wall. We may not be at the end of our physical endurance, but it takes endurance to keep going in the face of interference, defeat, disappointment, distractions, and actual opposition. Much of the work of spiritual growth is practice dealing with what impedes us. We’re told to “run the race” and “win the prize” LorbeerkranzZypernRemGoldenLaurelWreathPrize(Heb. 12:1,2; 1 Cor. 9:24-27), but the course is full of obstacles.

I’ve noticed that, among Christians who consciously seek spiritual growth, the big hurdles drive them right to God in prayer. Get cancer, get fired, get openly persecuted, and your first thought is, “Get grace!” When it’s huge, you’re on your knees right away.

The petty interference, the little things that force you to change course, the irritating delays and details, the minor pains with amazing power to distract – these are more likely to cause you to stumble, because they expose your biggest weakness: thinking you can handle things on your own. But God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness (cf 2 Cor. 12:9), and He expects you to learn that you need His help every bit as much in this daily obstacle course as you do in the few great races of life.

What you perceive as a barrier, or as Satan’s interference with your vocation, or as the failure of others to support your efforts (though it may actually be all those things, too), God perceives as your training ground. Where else could you practice – perhaps many times a day – giving back your work to Him? He has promised to “work in you both to will and to do” whatever He wants you to accomplish (Phil. 2:13), so it’s safe to hand it all over to Him when anything impedes your progress.

Today’s work may not be “teaching kids history,” or “writing a sermon,” or “running a business,” however good those goals may be. Today’s work may be “accepting the rejection slip with grace,” “forgiving the co-worker for undermining the project,” or “not cursing the driver whose texting just caused an accident that snarled up a whole day’s schedule and a whole month’s budget!” “Be still, and take heart, and wait on the Lord” (Ps. 27:14, Ps. 37:7) to get you over this speed bump, through this trial, or to the light at the end of this tunnel.

Today’s work, whatever else it may be, is to ask for God’s help, His grace and guidance, to return the soul to Him through every demand made upon it – even if the demand is to let go of a worthy goal. Frustration is the chronic state of impatient souls. You are willing to run the race, but are you willing to run it according to God’s timing?

CorocovadoCostaRicaPeaceProgress is good, but interference may be even better. God is not just using you to get good things accomplished, but is using that work and those obstacles to get YOU formed, strengthened, and filled with grace. Bless you as you learn to receive every one of these little obstructions and hindrances as a reminder from God to seek His perfect peace.

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Editor's Note: For more of Charlotte's insights, check out her recently published book about the Sabbath rest, Souls at Rest: An Exploration of the Eucharistic Sabbath

Art: Berlin-Steglitz, Skulptur vor der Matthäuskirche: Dieter Popielaty: Leid an der Mauer (Suffering at the Wall, Dieter Popielaty, Sculpture in front of the St. Matthew Church:Berlin-Steglitz), 1965, Andreas Praefcke, own work, April 2009, CCA; Lorbeerkranz (Golden laurel wreath), probably from Cyprus, 4th/3rd century BC, Andreas Praefcke, April 2007, PD-Worldwide; Corcovado National Park, Peninsula de Osa, Costa Rica, José R, 2010, CCA, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Charlotte Ostermann

Charlotte is a Catholic convert, home educator, freelance writer and editor, poet and spiritual mentor with the Apostles of the Interior Life. She's the author of Souls at Rest: An Exploration of the Eucharistic Sabbath, Souls at Work: An Invitation to Freedom, Catholics Communicate Christ: How to Serve the Church as a Writer and Making Sunday Special. She has earned the Maryvale Institute "Certificate in Art, Beauty, and Inspiration“ an approach to the arts rooted in the Catholic Catechism. Her feature articles and poems have been published in Envoy, Canticle, Hereditas, Thessauri Ecclesiae, Mater et Magistra, St. Austin Review, and Gilbert magazines. Charlotte lives with her husband, Russ, and five of their eight children on a "farm wannabe" north of Lawrence, Kansas. She sings in the Sursum Corda Polyphony Ensemble and at her home church, the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center. She's a member of the Catholic Writers Guild, the Catholic Creatives Salon and the Contemporary Religious Artists Association. Charlotte has spoken for home educators, women's retreats, moms groups, C.S. Lewis Conferences, and more. Her topics include poetic learning, aesthetic education, true beauty, creativity and faith, the art of dialogue, holy leisure, literature and life, interior freedom. Do you need a speaker? See for more information.

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  • Melinda


  • Jeanette

    I wanted to share something I read recently from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young which reminded me of what you have posted here Charlotte:

    “Follow Me one step at a time. That is all I require of you. In fact, that is the only way to move through this space/time world. You see huge mountains looming, and you start wondering how you are going to scale those heights. Meanwhile, because you’re not looking where you’re going, you stumble on the easy path where I am leading you now. As I help you get back on your feet, you tell Me how worried you are about the cliffs up ahead. But you don’t know what will happen today, much less tomorrow. Our path may take an abrupt turn, leading you away from those mountains. There may be an easier way up the mountains than is visible from this distance. If I do lead you up the cliffs, I will equip you thoroughly for that strenuous climb. I will even give my angels charge over you, to preserve you in all your ways.

    Keep your mind on the present journey, enjoying My Presence. Walk by faith, not by sight, trusting Me to open up the way before You.”

    • Lovely quote! Thanks for sharing!

    • Joan

      Thank you so much for sharing this Jeanette. It’s exactly what I needed to hear!

      • LizEst

        Please see her continued discussion above.

    • LisaB101

      Please forgive me, but I thought Jesus Calling was warned against because it is considered “automatic writing.”

      • Jeanette

        Thank you Lisa. I looked up many articles on the internet and it seems some claim it was automatic writing but others claim it as devotional and inspirations from the Holy Spirit. Regardless, I have thrown my book out (which was a gift to me) and have alerted others I know who read this and ‘God Calling’, which also has a claim of being from automatic writing that I discovered in my research. They can make their own minds up concerning these books. Since there seems to be some controversy, it’s better not to read this book. Lisa, thank you for your care in informing me about this article.

        • Jeanette – you are an exceptional human. It is rare that folks have the wisdom to take the approach you have modeled here. I have no doubt that God will bless you for your sensitivity to choosing only those paths that are clearly illuminated by the Holy Spirit.

          • Jeanette

            When you pray the Litany of Humility daily and mean it, God does bring you ways to exercise it and blesses you because of it…and I need lots of this type of exercise! Thank you Dan.

          • LizEst

            Thank you Jeanette
            …and for anyone who would like to access the Litany of Humility, we have it on site here:

          • LisaB101

            Amen to that. We all need to pray the Litany…. and mean it. Thank you for this reminder to do so. God bless you, Jeanette.

          • LisaB101

            Jeanette, I completely agree with Dan! Your words of wisdom always encourage me, so I always look to see what you post. Thank you for your humility and your charity towards all of us.

          • Jeanette

            Thank you. How very sweet of you. God bless!

  • Thank you for this! I have been struggling lately. I feel like I have regressed more than progressed. I’ve been so discouraged. I know I shouldn’t but it can get so hard. Thank you for reminding me to trust in Him.

    • Jeanette

      I know you have a devotion to The Divine Mercy, so I believe that you wouldn’t mind my suggestion to pray at every turn: “Jesus, I trust in You.”

      • Beautiful suggestion, Jeannette. Thanks for your prayers…I just hurt my knee and the Divine Mercy, plus prayers from the Body of Christ, are getting me through!

  • Br. Patrick

    Nice one Charlotte !

  • Cathy

    Thanks, I find that when I am frustrated with the brick wall to pull myself out of the equation and acknowledge to God that I am the obstacle. Everything is grace
    before the condition and the greater the condition the Greater the grace in its completion.

  • Patricia

    Such reality, truth and perspective! This posting is so refreshing to read and such an effective statement about the way of living the spiritual life in the real world! Thank you for acknowledging how some people’s mess-ups can cause such far-reaching consequences and how to deal with the massiveness of the issue when someone without inside perspective thinks it is such a little thing ( …. just writing back a quick text message…what’s the problem with that? :-)) and it does become our spiritual work to deal with it!!! Thank you so much for your insights and honesty about God’s work in us, and sharing about the authentic spiritual work of our lives.

  • Br. Patrick

    Nice one Charlotte

  • DianeVa

    Thank you Charlotte for a beautiful reminder and encouraging words. What came to mind after I read your words were these simple words, “It is The Lord!” Everything God gives us is given and or permitted by The Lord for our salvation.

  • These things need to be taught to teenagers who are going through hard times not of their own making.

  • Joan

    Thank you Charlotte for this lovely post, for reminding me to turn to God for His help and His guidance. I get so worried about things and about my own failings that I seem to forget that He knows all about me and that He truly wants to help.

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