When my family and I were hiking up the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes one time, we wanted to get to the western edge of the dunes so that we could look down upon Lake Michigan. We’d get over one hill, and then there’d be another hill to climb. Surely, we thought, if we just get to the top of that, we’ll get to the top of the dunes and be able to look down at Lake Michigan. Then we’d walk to the top of that hill and look up…still another dune to climb. But we just knew that once we got to the top of that one, then we’d be at the top of the dunes. So we kept on walking, until we got to the top of THAT hill and looked up…only to see still another big mountain of sand. No matter how many times we thought we were to the final mound, there was yet another mound to climb. Not knowing how much further it was to the top, we finally gave up. We turned around and headed back down to where we had started, and by that time we were very hot and thirsty. We never did see Lake Michigan from atop the dunes that day.
Sometimes when you’re doing something, and you don’t know how far or how much longer until you complete it, you can begin to feel discouraged—even to the point where you just give up. That’s similar to what happened to Nehemiah and the Israelites as they are rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. In Nehemiah 4:6 we read, “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” They were half done with this massive project. But then it seemed like it was the never-ending project. And rather than see all that they had done, they began to focus on all that still needed to be done. They were out of breath and they were tired, and they thought that completing the project was more than they could do.
Often, the halfway point can be the toughest place to be. That’s when the work gets boring and monotonous, and you don’t really want to do it anymore. That’s when the financing gets tough and you wonder how you’re going to come up with enough money to do the rest. That’s when the initial joy and enthusiasm gives way to drudgery and impatience. That’s when the critics come out and wonder aloud why you’re doing it “that way.” Or someone who is jealous begins to undermine what you do. It’s a lot easier to start something than it is to finish it. That’s how it was for the Israelites when they reached the halfway point of rebuilding the wall, and they focused on what was left to be done instead of what they had done so far.
Do you remember when you first dedicated your life to the Lord and you were baptized in him? How excited you were about your decision and the new direction for your life? As time goes on, the Christian life can get mundane as we get into a routine. Or maybe you find that it’s a lot harder to resist temptations than you thought it would be. And you feel defeated. Or you are going through struggles, and you wonder why your faith is so hard. When the devil brings on discouragement and chaos, don’t fall for it by only focusing on what’s left to be done. Remember what God has done in your life, and keep going strong, moving ahead in your faith one step at a time. Keep reading and studying the Bible. Keep going to church. Keep remembering that God is working in you and through you no matter where you are. Keep close to those in the community of faith. And keep praying. If you do that, like Nehemiah and the Israelites who DID finish building their wall, you will finish your faith well and make it to the end.
You and God…you’ve got this.