At the very beginning, God made all humans with two very important requirements, whether we like it or not.
Southwest of Colorado Springs is a hill simply known to many as “the Incline.”
Originally a railway track, the wooden ties form a rough-hewn stairway and a grueling climb that gains over 2,000 feet of elevation—topping at 8,600 feet above sea level—in under a mile. It has become a popular destination for Olympians, military cadets and fitness enthusiasts.
Despite being none of those, I decided to give the Incline a shot. At the bottom, a little girl with her grandfather passed me. Very cute, and if they could do it, so could I.
About an hour later, I’d been reduced to a literal crawl, and I wasn’t the only one. A burly, muscular dude beside me was doing the same and wheezing like he was about to cough up a lung. The Air Force cadet ahead of us was also using her hands.
While I was convincing my heart not to burst, I saw the same grandfather and granddaughter duo now on their merry way down the stairs, looking none the worse for wear.
The High Percentage of Failure
A lot of us don’t succeed in reaching our goals, or if we do, we don’t do it as cleanly or triumphantly as we’d envisioned. Sometimes we get hurt. Sometimes we hurt others along the way. Often, we’re left with regrets or questions.
Entrepreneur pointed out in the article about business startups that over 70 percent of them fail because the people leading the charge lack focus, take advice from the wrong sources or lack good mentorship. Business and leadership magazine Forbes has even harsher statistics: 90 percent of launches will end in failure.
Studies are finding that personal goals have about the same success rate. Peer-reviewed studies of AA programs or other similar self-improvement courses show that people involved have between a five and 10 percent chance of success.
Why are these numbers so discouraging?
It’s all too easy to point at people’s inexperience, failure to properly prepare or lack of persistence when plans sputter and fall through. Many times, breakdowns can be traced back to some or all of these reasons.
At the heart of this issue, though, lies a very different problem.
A Mighty Pairing of Minds
At the root of most, if not all, failure is when we take on problems without proper support or absorb issues into our agendas that aren’t really ours to tackle.
Avoiding these two pitfalls is hard, and to do it we need tight relationships with our maker and other people.
As Kelly Wilkerson pointed out in a podcast episode about parents and prodigal children, “God is faithful and never forget that. He is faithful. I don't care how dark it is, what kind of storm it is, God is faithful. He's with you. He's going to see through this. He hasn't abandoned you.”
“Don't be afraid to be honest with God,” Gary Wilkerson said. “Be careful how we talk to him. He is to be revered, but he is our father as well, and he's not afraid of our questions.”
Some believers stop there, thinking a good relationship with God is all they need.
However, God himself said that it was “not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18 ESV), and this was before the Fall. Adam strolled around with God in the garden, but God still considered Adam “alone” in some sense.
“Think of the mighty pairings that were God’s design: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Moses and the elders, David and Jonathan,” Gary pointed out in a sermon about healing from past wounds or a current battle.
“In so many instances of great need, there were communities—even just two people—who came together to strengthen each other’s faith. I can’t imagine life without my encouraging wife, Kelly, who tells me in every trial, ‘Don’t run, Gary. Stay in this fight! You’re being tested, but you’re meant to have victory.’
“When you face your trial, will you do it alone? Or will you open yourself to the love God has provided for you in community?”
Finding a Wise Guide
I’d set out at the bottom the Incline believing myself to be reasonably fit—whatever that meant—and arrived at the top suitably humbled.
How very different that little girl’s ascent with her grandfather was. He’d clearly done this climb many times, as evidenced by appropriate shoes and a large jug of water. He would’ve helped her pace herself so she didn’t get overheated, showed her where she could safely stop on the narrow stairway to rehydrate and warned her about the false summit.
Three-fourths of the way up the Incline, the steepness of the hill makes it look like you’re closer to success than you actually are.
Locals call this the “bailout” point because so many people arrive and are shocked to find another 300 steps waiting before the real summit. Even though the true end isn’t much farther after this point, most hikers turn back here, too disheartened and exhausted to continue.
If you have someone climbing alongside you, showing you how to pace yourself, reminding you not to set your goals on that false end, you won’t lose momentum.
As community-creatures, we are meant to travel through life closely knit together with our Father and other people. Like that little girl with her wise guide and protector, an experienced mentor can teach you how to struggle through serious hardship without losing heart.
You may also be called to guide someone else with less experience, part of which would be showing them in your own life how to humbly submit to another’s guidance. No one is ever done learning as long as we’re alive.
The climb is before us, friends. Upward and onward!