Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in survival mode?
Joy is elusive and “holding on” is about all you can offer. Demands on your time, your emotions, and your physical presence far outweigh the supply chain. Weariness is your constant companion and waiting is the name of the game.
You may find yourself thinking:
“If only …” or
“If I can just make it past …”
“How will I make it through?”
I know. I’ve been there. So, when the tour guide at a well-known U.S. historical site in Pennsylvania told us “the rest of the story” when we visited, I took notes. He was speaking my language and I knew it was a story others needed to hear.
The battle for survival
There’s a well-known narrative associated with the American Revolution: The Winter at Valley Forge. Some might think it was a battle. It was. But not the kind with musket fire. The battle was for survival.
Less than two years into the conflict with England, the American army was barely holding their own. Many were questioning General George Washington’s ability to lead. In late 1777, the British occupied Philadelphia. Washington moved his troops to a higher location near the city to keep an eye on the enemy through the winter.
On December 19, a weary contingent marched into Valley Forge and began building shelters to survive the winter. Supply chains failed, leading to widespread hunger and threadbare clothing. Nearly 2,000 lives were lost to the diseases that spread through the camp.
That’s about all I remember from my history lessons. It was a time of survival. We’re glad they survived because they eventually defeated the Redcoats years later.
“But wait; there’s more!”
During the time at Valley Forge, Washington brought in Baron von Steuben, a Prussian officer trained in training men. At the time, Washington’s troops were a combination of enlisted men and state militias who operated from a variety of field manuals and competing allegiances. Each group had their own way of firing, marching, and reporting.
Von Steuben instituted order and discipline. They drilled technique, practiced formations, and unified under one commander. And somewhere in the middle of all the hard work and long days, morale returned.
When they streamed out of camp exactly six months later on June 19, the rebel farmers had turned into a professional Continental Army, ready for battle and anxious to take on the Brits. And no one — I repeat, no one — questioned Washington’s leadership any longer.
Historians credit Valley Forge as a turning point in the Revolutionary War, noting it paved the way for the ultimate victory in the war for American independence.
But watch! There’s more!
Unless you’re a history buff, you likely retained only a few key pieces of information about the American Revolution. And I bet two of those standouts include the beginning and the end.
We’re wired to gravitate to the mile markers. We love fresh starts and celebrate photo finishes. But the middle? Not so much. And if that middle is messy or takes too long or is filled with twists and turns we didn’t count on? Well, let the survival-mode commence. It’s no longer about purpose and vision. It’s about “just getting through.”
But what if there’s more to the ‘wait’? What if that deep winter is a training ground for battle, teaching you to trust your commander in chief and testing and molding your mettle?
What if that long dry spell is forcing you to send roots down deep, developing strength and perseverance you will only grow when you have no other choice?
What if the waiting is more about preparing you to be more like Christ and ready to handle the spouse God will bring, the children he will bestow, or the success, open door, or platform he has in store? What if?
I think Scripture sheds light on that question, compelling us to declare, “But watch! There’s more!”
The training ground transforms into the turning point
At the end, I’ve included a small excerpt of verses that affirm in God’s economy, nothing is wasted. We can’t know what he is up to in the middle of our trial, our waiting, or just the messy middle. But even if the supply chain of circumstances is threadbare, there is never a shortage of life-sustaining truth and hope.
I’ve learned in the middle of times like these, I need to post truth in view. It’s not enough to hide it in my heart; it must be displayed before my eyes. So here’s a simple PDF suitable for printing and posting.
Recalling Scriptures like these don’t automatically turn winter into spring. But they can help us reframe our perspective, assuring us it will be worth it. Whatever “it” is.
So we wake up each day determined to lean into the drills and learn the lesson.
We trade our “Why me” or “Why not me” questions for “What would you have me learn from this, Lord?”
And when we fail, we begin again. We trust our commander, believing he knows why he has us here and has a purpose for what we’re doing and enduring.
And one day, we’ll march out of the valley, trained and ready. And then one day after that, we’ll look back and tell others about our own transformative “turning point.”
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
(Gal. 6:9, ESV)
For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
(Js. 1:3-4, NLT)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
(2 Tim. 4:7, ESV)
… and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith …
(Heb. 12: 1b-2a, NKJV)
… and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame …
(Rom. 5:4-5a, ESV)
… and having done all, to stand firm. … To that end, keep alert with all perseverance …
(Eph. 6: 13b, 18b, ESV)
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Rom. 12:12, ESV)
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
(1 Cor. 13:7, NLT)
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
(Phil. 3:12, ESV)
And then consider how The Message presents the fruits of the Spirit:
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
(Gal. 5:22-23, MSG)
This post originally appeared on ChristiGee.com and was republished with permission.
Christi Gee is the author of Revival: 6 Steps to Reviving Your Heart and Rebuilding Your Prayer Life and the creator of It’s Reasonable — a series of guided courses designed to help parents and teachers answer kids’ common questions about the Christian faith. Find out more at ChristiGee.com