Learning to Walk: A Guide to Overcoming Life Challenges

Published on
November 6, 2023

Season of Reflection

We are well into summer; Independence Day in America has come and gone. And we’re in the third quarter of the year. Season and quarter changes are times when I reflect on what has been and what I want to be. And this

Life has a peculiar sense of humor. Back in January, I wrote about 2022. Good things happened last year. In late January, Vicki and I made the decision that I should retire from the military chaplaincy. I formed Gregory Woodard LLC a few weeks later and began building a personal coaching business. I enjoyed coaching several people throughout the year and continuing to grow my understanding of practices necessary to build a sustainable business that would add value to people. The year was full of planning, speculation, and dreaming about what we wanted for the next steps.

In quarter four of last year, life threw a curveball at me. On October 7, EMTs entered our home, responding to seizure activity from me. I spent several hours in the emergency room. A few days later, I began conversing with a neurologist. We enjoyed hosting family for our daughter’s wedding one week after this event.

On December 12, EMTs again entered our home, responding to another seizure event from me. Once again, I ended up in the emergency room, and within a couple of days, we again conversed with my neurologist. This time, she offered a diagnosis of epilepsy and prescribed anti-seizure medication.

Now let’s accelerate the timeline. In early February of this year, we purchased a home. Later that month, we hosted my retirement ceremony. One week later, we moved to our new home in Virginia, and I began serving a local church until my military retirement at the end of August.

I’ve enjoyed my new season of life; I’m doing work I love, my health progressed well, and I enjoyed my regular activities. On May 25th, I again suffered a seizure, EMTs entered our home, and a few days ago, I surrendered my medically suspended driver’s license due to my seizure activity and walked home.

Life in this world is full of good times and challenging times. Challenging times can be seasons of great uncertainty. In a book from a few years ago, Pastor Jeff Manion called this The Land Between. Your time in this land will be difficult. It will be costly.

I’m in “the land between” again, a land of uncertainty. Time in this land is difficult and costly.

When we exit this land, we are different.

In my professional world as a Navy Chaplain and as a minister, I asked people facing hard times several questions:

  • Will your hard time leave you bitter or better?
  • Will you grow bitter and allow that bitterness to take away your joy and peace?
  • Will you have learned something beneficial to your life?
  • Will you allow God to use your hard time to benefit others?

I reacted to my most recent seizure by complaining, by feeling sorry for myself.

Over the past couple of weeks, I decided enough was enough. I needed to face this challenge and see it as an opportunity to grow.

In what follows, I will give you a few ideas for ways to turn your troubles into triumphs.

Learning to Walk

Vicki and I are in a season of life where we are looking forward to having grandchildren. Consider a little one who first learns to push up off the floor. They reach for the side, then the top of a footstool, and pull themselves up. After a while, they may venture to let go of the footstool and realize they can stand. But then they tip over. They land on their padded backside. And they try again. Then mom or dad holds out their arms, and the toddler takes their first tentative steps. And again, they tip over. Their steps become more confident, and they go longer and longer each time. This cycle repeatedly happens until that day when the little one is walking and running confidently, climbing stairs, and going places on their own. All because they tipped over a few times in the beginning.

My life has been a lot like learning to walk. The growth process of children does not care about grand plans of learning to walk. They are indifferent to our struggles. With each tumble, we learn how to balance, gather more courage, and get back on our feet.

When we think we've caught our stride, a massive challenge comes roaring. Sometimes, we tip over. I want to share something I read many years ago that stuck with me and helped me stand up again, literally and metaphorically. In James 1:2-4, the Bible says this about hard times:

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

Seeing Challenges as Opportunities

You may be thinking, "How on earth can we see a challenge as an opportunity for joy?" Here's the thing, just like my future grandchildren falling onto their padded bottom, every challenge is an opportunity to learn, grow, and become better versions of ourselves.

You are in a job that does not feel like a vocation. It is a “for now” job. The problem is that it has been a “for now” position for a decade. And then, suddenly, the organization goes through a leadership crisis, and the company is forced to downsize. You are one of many who are told that your services are no longer required. Now what? You can redefine yourself and move in a different vocational direction. The result of this season of redefinition is that you will land in a vocation that matches the deepest part of who you are. The problem is the uncertainty of the messy middle.

Live with Faith and Endurance

Building endurance is like tending to a garden. You plant the seeds, water them, give them sunshine, and wait. Oh, the waiting, right? It tests your faith in the process and yourself. And let's be honest. Nobody’s a fan of waiting. But beauty comes from waiting, from the nurturing.

During a season of life, you face a challenging health diagnosis by a doctor. You knew something was wrong. Finally, you make an appointment. After undergoing several tests, your doctor reveals that you have treatable cancer, and offers no guarantees. The treatment regimen will be challenging, but the prognosis is good. The goal of treatment is to eliminate cancer from your body. And so, you begin the treatment with great hope. Week after week, you undergo the aggressive treatment required for the best outcome. You and your oncologist have a goal - to beat cancer. The problem is the messy middle and the uncertainty of if you will ever receive a clean bill of health.

From Endurance to Maturity

What do we get in return for all this struggle? Maturity. But remember maturity is not about never falling; it’s about getting back up each time we fall. It's about knowing we have faced the challenge and become stronger.

You set a goal of completing a 26.2-mile marathon. You start your dream of running a marathon with zest. You have the best running shoes and clothes you can buy. After several weeks of running, your energy and zest for running begin to drag. You hit the messy middle. Stepping out the door each day for your run takes time and commitment. Some days you have it, and some days you don’t. The same is true during the actual marathon. The beginning miles after the start are relatively straightforward. And then you hit “the wall.” You press through, and finally, you cross the finish line.

Life is a marathon. We keep showing up. As Eugene Peterson wrote, we live a long obedience in the same direction.

Keep Standing Up

Life will keep throwing challenges our way. That’s a given. We can see them as insurmountable obstacles or challenges meant to propel us to our goals. I know it’s easier said than done. Trust me; I’ve been there. But if a little child can keep getting back up, so can we.

Remember my future grandchild story the next time life throws you a curveball. Remember the organizational downsize, the medical diagnosis, and the marathon runner. Embrace the tumble, dust off, and get back on your feet. Take the leap of faith. My friend, there is a peculiar joy in facing challenges and taking the plunge.

Now, it’s your turn. What’s the challenge you’re grappling with? Share your story. Remember, we’re in this together. I’m cheering for you. You got this!

Your Turn

My life challenges provide me with hard-fought experience seeking the clarity, confidence, and congruence I want for my clients. I cannot promise you the perfect outcome when you work with me. I promise I will be present for you as we converse about clarity in your life. I have experienced the confidence that comes from profound clarity about who I am and who God made me. When you bring clarity, you are equipped to find unity between your most authentic self and your vocational calling.

If you show up with your best effort, you will find your way to clarity, confidence, and congruence in your life.

Schedule a strategy call today. Use my FREESTRATEGY code to make this a no-cost call.

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