Have there been times in your life when you felt like you were going to break—emotionally or physically?
Have you had pivotal “make or break” moments in your marriage?
I can think of moments when my physical and emotional self, and my marriage, were simultaneously stressed.
These experiences were “break then make” moments and are, consequently, some of my most treasured memories.
“Dad? Mom is literally crawling.”
Those were our son’s exact words.
The guys were genuinely concerned for me—they thought I’d “lost it” and might very well roll off of the mountain at any moment.
They were right to think that—I was on my hands and knees to prevent that very thing!
Everyone halted as our son handed me a walking stick and let me go ahead of him. I rose up on my pins and continued the sidehill descent—working to keep my heavy pack from sending me head-over-heels down the hill.
We were in the Idaho wilderness and it was close to 11 o’clock at night. Our daughter was holding down the fort at camp, staying in touch by radio and cooking a late dinner—while the rest of us packed an elk toward camp.
My thoughts were all over the place…
…How did I get here? Aren’t there other ways to reduce our kids’ screen time?
Wilderness living and nine days without a shower—anything for a family picture!
Hunting supplies most of our yearly meat supply and it is also our family’s bonding time. Many times we have left everyone and everything behind for solitude in God’s creation. We look forward to good books, hikes, campfire cooking and hunting.
We also gear up with the knowledge that there will be challenge and hardship.
The guys should blog some of their hunting adventures—I can only speak for the times they carted me along. By now I have helped pack out many deer and an elk for each of our kids and My Man—two of the elk were in the daytime and two were late at night.
Have I ever mentioned that I am not a night person?!
Those two night hikes with heavy packs were very difficult, to the point of near physical breakdown. Remember my fast hiking husband?
When My Man is in action we hesitate to even blink—we might open our eyes and ask “what just happened?”
We exist in his wake.
Sometimes I call my husband a Tasmanian devil, but his other name sounds a bit sweeter…
My honey badger #followinghimandHim
One of those meat-packing nights, not the down-on-my-hands-and-knees night, was probably the biggest physical challenge of my life.
Were we training for the special forces or on a hunting trip?
That particular night we hiked through brush and dead-and-downed trees for hours. A heavy pack is one thing, but throwing yourself over and under slippery, large dead trees and then recovering with that pack was a whole new challenge. More than once my load almost sent me headfirst over the logs.
Then we got to the dreaded sidehill climb—my least favorite. I was teetering close to complete physical exhaustion.
Why am I writing about exhaustion?
And why am I even willing to be a part of this?
It is simple, I want to be stronger—not stronger in myself, stronger in Him.
2 Corinthians 12:10
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
The physical breakdown I was experiencing on the hunting trip can be a picture of other hardships we face—in marriage, family relationships, church, jobs, etc. These challenges wear us down, but, ultimately, we are strengthened.
Like breaking horses
Horses and people can be stubborn. Horses need to be worn down, “broken”, before they will listen to their master—particularly while in training. In this manner, a stubborn creature can quickly be made into a priceless companion.
With a good master, they fulfill a purpose and their lives are better than they could have ever imagined.
People need to be worn down, even broken, before they realize their need for God
Thus “break then make”, rather than “make or break”.
I don’t believe trying times are exclusively “make” moments or “break” moments. For God’s children, these moments are linked in a mysterious process—losing ourselves and finding Him—then doing it again, and again, and again…
Challenge, exhaustion and “breaking” can put our focus where it needs to be—on Him.
Seeing the Maker all around us
God is our Maker, not just making us in our mother’s womb, but also continually remaking us as we walk with Him.
A dear friend recently shared on Jeremiah 18:4:
Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.
Israel was a marred vessel, in God’s hands, so He remade it. He could have cast it aside, thrown it out, forgotten about it.
Instead, God, the Maker, remade it. He loved the vessel.
Won’t He do the same with all of His children? If we are marred, broken or spoiled in His hands, He will remake us and remake us and remake us—until we are complete.
Our job is to stay in His hands
Let Him be the Potter. When you are broken don’t try to remake yourself—let him remake you and then go be His beautiful image-bearer to those around you.
Fortified in the Maker’s hands
I am sure you have heard that strong bones and muscles are formed with exercise, impact and stress—muscle fibers are literally torn before growing stronger!
Guess what strengthens teeth? Impact…chewing! Soft foods don’t do it. We need to chew on tough foods to initiate that regeneration in the tooth. For example, meat provides great exercise for our teeth.
Similarly, we need that continual “chewing” of God’s Word to mature, and our families and marriages need to “chew” through trials to be strengthened.
Back to the mountain…
So why was exhaustion good for me that night on the mountain? All of the strengthening—in prayer, my muscles and in our family bond.
After we walked sidehill for awhile, My Man and JH left their load to go back all the way back for a second load. KH and I continued with our loads to a designated spot. We tied the meat up in a tree and then started for camp. Partway down we realized we forgot something—we nearly cried when we had to go back up the trail.
Back at camp we fell on our sleeping bags, completely exhausted. Our aches and pains soon subsided and we had a great night’s sleep.
Just yesterday we started talking about these stories around the dinner table—we could barely keep them straight. It was just adventure after adventure, and laugh after laugh.
Who is God close to?
Not all of our family’s hardships have been laughable.
Maybe you are experiencing deep grief and hardship—feeling that you are broken beyond repair. Please read ahead and see who exactly God is close to:
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
He is close to the broken! Jesus even set the example of brokenness:
1 Corinthians 11:24
…this is my body, which is broken for you…
Jesus was broken so that the broken might be brought close to God—remade and complete.
If you are feeling broken, the Potter’s hands are the place of true restoration.
I pray that you will place your life in His hands.
He will strengthen you and give you rest.