Life is filled with sanctifying tensions. Sin meets grace. Obstacles spark growth. Pain yields to joy. There are dark periods where we cry, often followed by light moments where we laugh.
But sometimes we get stuck.
When we’re stuck, we stay on the dark side, unable to reach the light. Sin feels undefeated. Obstacles don’t give way. Suffering persists.
Often we aren’t in a state of crisis or chaos.
We just feel stuck.
Life is just not what it could be. We aren’t moving forward. Everything feels like it is on hold.
And if we were honest with ourselves, it’s like being a frog in water slowly, slowly rising in temperature. There’s nothing really wrong – but we know if we stay where we are, we’re in hot water filled with regret and dissatisfaction.
Have you felt this way? Maybe you feel that way right now.
There are three ways the Bible illustrates breakthrough:
God is the God of the breakthrough Gospel breaks through the veil of law and religion Grace breaks through our sin and guilt.
In the passage from Chronicles, God is called the “God of the breakthrough” by David when God defeated the Philistines at Baal-perazim.
The victory that David experienced by the “God of the breakthrough” foreshadows Christ’s work at the cross. Christ’s death broke through the veil separating us from God, tearing it from top to bottom, as described in Matthew.
As a result of that death and resurrection, grace breaks sin.
Signs of Stuck
If you are feeling stuck right now, you probably want to jump immediately to what the breakthrough solution may be.
However, it actually might be more important to understand your current state than trying to escape it. After all, being stuck doesn’t put you in sudden, impending danger. It’s usually a condition that has been brewing at a low-simmer for a period of time – one worthy of grasping.
In today’s reading, we will try to name the nature of our “state of Stuck.”
Do you relate to any of these seven symptoms below?
The above are different flavors of being stuck. Naming the feeling or nuances that you resonate with can help you understand how to engage with God to experience breakthrough.
Sliding describes making one positive step forward but backsliding another two.
Stalled is feeling as if you are just waiting on something, but you don’t know what. Life is in a holding pattern.
Stalemated is feeling you have run out of options. Or each option you think you have is immediately blocked or leads to a bad outcome.
Strong Armed is a state of feeling forced or intentionally limited by someone else.
Surrendered describes your own feelings about the situation where you have given up as not changeable.
Surrounded is a lack of options, with hostiles all around without help in sight.
Suffocated is the lack of air to breathe, literally, the lack of inspiration.
Seven signs of stuck. Don’t gloss over this. Name the specifics of your situation so you can move on.
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
Psalms 22:16 KJV
I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me. I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.
Psalms 142:2-4 KJV
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
John 21:15-19 KJV
Today, we will explore possible causes of that “stuck” feeling: things we do or thoughts we think that lead us to the place called “stuck.”
Because we feel like we are going nowhere, these causes are Dead End Drivers. There’s some behavior that is driving us into these dead ends. Whether we are aware of these behaviors or patterns, they are like tiny misguided engines that have taken us down the path to where we are now. Our wheels are just turning and the engine keeps revving along.
Here are a few common Dead End Drivers:
Determination (being overdetermined)
Doing (too much)
All of them stem from a life that puts ourselves above God.
Determination is normally good when meant as perseverance. But when someone is “overdetermined,” they are prone to blockage. Have you ever insisted on your way, your outcome, even when it runs counter to God’s priorities and commands? That overdetermination can lead being stuck and a need for breakthrough.
Despair is believing your situation is greater than God’s sovereignty. It means to disobey his call for us to have hope and joy and to lose sight of God’s truth for us.
Deceit refers to the self-deception that springs from our own heart.
Denial is remaining oblivious to a problem by denying there is a problem.
Deification means elevating a goal, outcome, or person above God.
Doing too much – busyness for its own sake or because of poor priorities – can leave you stuck in one place. And exhausted, too.
Doubt is being uncertain, maybe fearful, of a next step, decision, or of God, himself.
The list of stumbling blocks isn’t exhaustive.
Each of these need an examination of your own heart. This step of examination can hopefully lead to revelation into how we may be creating our own state of stuck.
It is then that we can experience God’s breakthrough.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:8 KJV
A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.
Proverbs 16:9 KJV
And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt.
Jeremiah 25:6 KJV
Catalysts of Change
What does it take to get Unstuck?
When we feel stuck we often need to take some action that will lead to the breakthrough. The action we are searching for is the catalyst.
What we really want is not the catalyst, but what a catalyst brings: change.
Change. Isn’t that what we ultimately seek when we are searching for a breakthrough?
Doing the same things we did that led us to become stuck will unlikely lead to breakthrough. It will likely lead to more of the same.
Some kind of change, even if seemingly small and imperceptible, must happen.
That agent for change, the spark, the push is a catalyst.
Here are five Catalysts for Change that can lead to breakthrough:
When we allow these catalysts into our lives, we can unblock ourselves and better see God’s guidance leading to breakthrough change.
Conviction reveals an error, a sin, a rebellion in our life. It’s often required to begin the process of experiencing God’s breakthrough.
Clarity comes from removing the distractions, getting clear on God’s priorities, eliminating bad influences or advice, getting the right perspective.
Choice is the actual act of making a decision. It involves intentionally moving forward with a person, a path, a commitment.
Cutting means removing a habit, a temptation, a relationship, or a desire from our life and thoughts.
Caring means digging into what really matters, peeling back the masks and numbness, actually coming face to face with your feelings and vulnerabilities.
Calm is often the precursor to clarity and comes from separating from the noise or being still in God’s presence.
Courage is the heart and strength to move forward and embrace what God wants to bring into your life.
All of these catalysts can be drawn from God’s written word. Not from our own fleeting and deceptive emotions, but from the firm foundation of God’s truth and faithfulness.
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
Luke 5:8 KJV
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
Matthew 18:8 KJV
Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.
Isaiah 54:4 KJV
Big Ideas behind Breakthrough:
Before you got stuck, God knew and went before you. The breakthrough you desire isn’t something you wait or influence by earning God’s favor.
Just as you can’t influence God’s acceptance of you as righteous, the opportunity to be accepted by God was offered to you before you became a sinner.
God has gone before your trial or stuck state. It may not seem like it, but he has. And that subtle shift in thinking matters in seeing the breakthrough.
Belief in God’s sovereignty and unfailing love matters. Maybe the breakthrough will happen in ways you don’t want. You should expect that. What you should stand on is that he will remain faithful to his promises and to who he is – God of the breakthrough.
Birth is the first breakthrough for the world and for you. When Christ was born into a sinful world as a man, he broke through six hundred years of silence. He broke into a dark and hopeless world.
Similarly, when you experience the birth of the spirit, you break through. Birthing – if you have ever watched or given birth – is truly a breakthrough – breaking water, breaking out of the womb.
If you have truly been reborn, that was a breakthrough that will model and shape all breakthroughs.
If God can reconcile your sin and invite you into a kingdom of eternity, what else awaits you?
God has gone Before you.
God is all you need to place your Belief in.
God has graced you with a new Birth in the spirit.
Breakthrough can be a life change. I don’t mean you get your goals and dreams. The Bible makes no promises that we will achieve those. In fact, it warns against devoting our attention to our visions and plans.
Breakthrough can accomplish the same as reaching your goals, but will be more fulfilling and surprising.
Real breakthrough is a God breakthrough. And that journey competes with other forces in the world – demands, distractions, and deceptions.
Don’t let this itch for breakthrough disappear. Make sure you press on.