My husband and I took advantage of the beautiful fall weather last Saturday and went for a short hike in Fernwood State Forest. As with most of the topography of eastern Ohio, the trail ran up and down hills of varying inclines with just enough level sections in between to be able to catch our breath. Some of the uphill spots gently ascended and we easily hit the plateau before heading downhill again. On others, though, it took a lot more effort to climb to the top. I found that as I was climbing one particularly steep section that it was a lot easier to focus just on the step or two in front of me, rather than keeping an eye on the peak of the hill.
It struck me that sometimes that's how it is in life also. When you're in the midst of a really hard struggle, sometimes it's best to just take one step, one breath at a time. You still need to look up at times to see where the trail is leading, but once you know that you're on the right path, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. To focus on the end of the trail, or even what might be around the next corner, can take precious energy and make the peak seem too far to reach before collapsing. By keeping your focus on what's immediately in front of you, you can put all of your energy where it's needed at that moment.
Rest assured, there will always be plateaus where you can stop for a breather and check where you are on the path; just as there will also be declines that give relief from the uphill climb but will then require the use of other muscles. As long as you are moving forward you're getting stronger. And at times you can look back and see your progress clearly, and take heart in knowing that if you made it up that hill, surely you can make it up the next one also.
Others may be able to sprint to the top of a hill that we are struggling to make any progress on, and that's okay- because this life isn't a marathon where we're all competing with each other to finish with the best time. It's an individual journey and progress is measured by growth, confidence, and contentment- not by how fast or far we've gone or how many hills we've conquered.
Our journey in this life will always have ups, downs, obstacles, seasons, and change. How we face them and whether or not we find joy in the journey is mostly a matter of perspective and perseverance.