As a teacher, one of my favourite things to do is to read stories to my students. I revel in well-crafted storylines, beautiful illustrations, and the way that even simple picture books can pull at my heart-strings. What I enjoy most, though, is using simple stories to teach lessons about character.
I recently found myself at the receiving end of one of my own story-driven character lessons. It’s funny how that happens sometimes, isn’t it?
During a late-night conversation, a friend and I somehow landed on the topic of healing testimonies. After sharing my own experience with healing, my friend shared an amazing testimony that she had heard. She told me about an Indonesian man who had a daughter born with a deformed leg. Full of faith, the man spoke to his daughter’s leg for days, praying that the badly bent bones would somehow straighten.
Days turned into weeks, and then months. Still, the man kept on praying until one day, he prayed and watched in awe as the bones in his daughter’s leg miraculously straightened in front of his very eyes.
As I listened to my friend tell the story, I couldn’t help but marvel at the unshakeable faith of whom she spoke. I mean, if I was the man, I don’t think I would have even made it to the one month mark, let alone months, plural. I’m pretty sure discouragement would have knocked me and my prayers down somewhere in the range of three to four weeks.
Being the analyzer that I am, it wasn’t long before questions sprang to mind. I found myself asking questions like, “Why don’t we hear more stories like this?” and “Why don’t I have more stories like this?”
Because God undoubtedly has a sense of humour, He answered my wonderings in that moment with the kind of illustration I’d happily give one of my students. He answered with a story.
I read Sam and Dave Dig a Hole years ago, but that night, the story came back to me clearly. It’s about two boys named Sam and Dave who, unsurprisingly, dig a hole in search of something spectacular.
Young Sam and Dave start out strong – full of hope and excitement. They dig straight down but they find nothing, so they decide to start digging to the right. When they still don’t find anything spectacular, they try digging to the left. Then they try splitting up. Still, they dig and dig and find nothing.
The problem isn’t that there is no treasure to be found. The illustrations in the book show that Sam and Dave are, in fact, surrounded by treasure. The problem is that every time they’re just about to discover treasure – when it lies just beyond the narrow dirt wall in front of them - they get tired, they stop, and they turn away from it. They get so close to finding their something spectacular, yet they never persevere quite long enough to possess it.
Why don’t we hear more stories like that of the Indonesian man’s?
It occurred to me, as I sat pondering on my living room floor that night, that I can be a lot like Sam and Dave sometimes. I may not be searching for something spectacular, but I have certainly contended for breakthrough in different areas of my life. How many times, I wonder, have I prayed and prayed for breakthrough, only to give up when it was just within my reach? It’s a sobering thought.
Perhaps I would have more testimonies if I had persevered through some of my disappointments just a little bit longer. If I had just prayed that one more prayer that would have brought the answers I was fighting for.
When the battle for breakthrough feels long, it’s so easy to do what Sam and Dave did: to get tired. To stop digging. To believe that we won’t find what we’re searching for even if we keep going. To turn in our shovels and walk away.
For myself and for many people I know, this past year hasn’t exactly been all sunshine and rainbows, if you know what I mean (Check out my last post for more on that if you missed it). Among many things, it’s been a season of believing for breakthrough, of seeking answers, and of praying for long-awaited promises to come to pass.
Maybe your current season has been less than sunny, too. Maybe Sam and Dave’s story also resonates with you and you feel like you’ve been digging for a long time with no breakthrough in sight.
If that’s the case, let me encourage you to keep digging. Keep pressing in. Don’t lose heart because your breakthrough might lie just beyond the narrow dirt wall of your next prayer.
Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV) says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
Note the words, “we will,” “the proper time,” and “if we do not give up.” The question isn’t whether or not answers are available to us, nor is it if our prayers will be answered (See John 15:7 and James 5:16 for more on that point). It says our harvest, or the fruits of our labour, will come. The question is whether or not we’ll persevere long enough to possess what we’re going after, regardless of when “the proper time” turns out to be.
If the proper time for our breakthrough turns out to be tomorrow or two years from today, will we persevere long enough to see it? The timing might be beyond our control, but the effort we put in, the length of our follow through, and the outlook we have in the process – those are entirely up to us. And they’re incredibly important because our harvest depends on them.
We will only get as far as we’re willing to dig.
So where do you find yourself in the pursuit of your something spectacular? Are you still digging towards it or have you turned in your shovel? If you’re still pressing in for your breakthrough, well done! Keep digging. If you’ve become discouraged or have given up on whatever it is you were fighting for, I challenge you to pick up your shovel again.
God has seen you in your waiting and He’s right there in the midst of it. He’s heard your prayers. He’s seen every tear along the way. Every step you’ve taken, every effort, every disappointment, every question you’ve had – they’re not lost on Him. He still hears, still sees, still cares, and still wants to give you good things because He’s a good father. With Him, your labour is not in vain.
As we move into a new year, may your strength and hope be renewed as you dig toward your something spectacular. And may you experience the breakthrough that God is orchestrating behind the scenes of your life, even now, as you continue to press in to Him.