One of my favorite things about being a pastor is getting to witness people have breakthrough moments. In the complexities of life, we all tend to get stuck at times. We find ourselves in unhealthy cycles that—no matter how hard we try—we just can’t seem to get ourselves out of. I’ve been there personally, and I’ve counseled dozens of people who just feel stuck. I’ve heard from stuck parents and from spouses in stuck marriages. It can be a dark and trying experience.
The reasons for our stuck-ness are manifold, but I have found that the barrier is often inside one’s own head. In other words, our problems are often due to self-imposed limitations. We operate with a shrunken view of reality. We imagine the world to be smaller than it truly is. Our belief system becomes gridlocked, and we struggle to find any way out.
To illustrate what I mean, consider Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile in 1957. For decades, a four-minute mile was considered a human impossibility. Runners would train in order to beat it only to continually fail. Then, in 1957 Roger Bannister did it. The very next year three men ran sub-four-minute miles in the same race. Today, it is not uncommon.
What happened? Author Edwin Friedman explained the phenomenon by quoting an African runner whose teammate set a new record for the mile in 1994. After being asked how his teammate was able to do it, he replied, “He is not caught up in the mythology of Western runners.”
We get stuck because we live within stories that shrink reality to the size of our personal concerns. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The most earth-shattering realization that I have ever encountered is the truth that Jesus Christ changes everything. What I mean is this: the reality of Jesus and everything he has done and continues to do to save humanity has the power to break through any barrier and transform your life. Reality is bigger than you think.
We often wrongly assume that our main problem is that we are not trying hard enough when in reality our issue is that we are living by false stories that have captured our imaginations, preventing us from seeing that the world is much bigger and the possibilities much greater than we have ever imagined.
I have been happily married for almost fifteen years. Niki and I have a great marriage, but it wasn’t always so. For the first few years, we really struggled. We often felt stuck. We would often repeat the same cycles of disappointing one another, anger, conflict, and then repeat. We both loved Jesus, but we struggled over how to connect Jesus to our marriage.
I can’t exactly recall when it began to shift for us, but I vividly remember coming to a realization one day. In Ephesians 5, Paul gives instructions to the married members of the church. He starts with the wives and then he turns his attention to the husbands. In his instructions to the wives he doesn’t say anything about expectations for husbands. In his instructions to the husbands he doesn’t say anything about expectations for wives.
To that point in my marriage, I had placed the majority of the blame for our problems on my wife. If she would just stop reacting this way or start doing this differently, we would be fine. Enter Jesus. Jesus shatters that way of thinking. How? Because he inherited a problem that he didn’t create (human sin), and then took all of the blame for it (the cross) in order to show God’s love for all eternity to the very ones who caused all the problems.
The gospel breaks through our self-imposed barriers and liberates us to love others even if that love is not being reciprocated. Jesus changes everything. I am able to love my wife, not because she will necessarily reciprocate (she may or may not), but because Jesus loves me infinitely. The source for my love comes from God, which guarantees that there will never be a deficit.
The day I realized that my focus in marriage was misplaced and that I needed to stop worrying about what Niki was doing and instead put my energy into loving her regardless was the day my marriage began to change. It doesn’t require two equally motivated people working on a marriage to change it. It requires one person to stop shifting the blame, take responsibility, and turn to Christ for help.
If you feel stuck, Jesus can change everything.