• Gail Armatys


While we intend to keep our feet on God's path for us, there are times we find we're just plain stuck.

The following insight about baby elephants may help shed light on any stuck-ness you may find yourself in today.

Stuck—Like Baby Elephants

There are captors of young elephants who illegally train them to stay in place by putting a rope (or chain) around one of their legs. The rope is attached to a stake driven into the ground and the elephants are restrained and unable to move beyond the rope's length.

Once they are old enough to care for themselves, the rope is removed but the elephants have been conditioned over time and won't wander past the learned length of the rope. They stay put because in their minds they are still restrained. They perceive they cannot go further.

There's another version of the story that describes the rope with barbs or thorns on it to induce pain on the elephant as it endeavors to step forward. The pain causes the elephant to succumb to the restraint and so moves no further.

It's a sad story for the elephants and it describes the way many of us live as well. We often remain trapped by thoughts of previous experiences. We perceive ourselves as unable to move and imprisoned by past failures and the resulting pain. So we stay stuck even as deep inside we ache and are called to move on.

Just like the case of the elephants, we become trapped by a lie meant to hold us captive. But the truth is the rope has been removed, the chain that binds has been broken, and the door we imagine to be closed to us stands open...we are already free.

So what's keeping you stuck?

What's Keeping You Stuck?

For most of us, our captivity begins with a thought. Once we think we're stuck or trapped because of our circumstances and previous painful experiences we begin to believe and act like it.

As we settle into this prison focused on protecting ourselves, we may become hooked on destructive habits, attitudes, and people often finding comfort in their familiar restraints. We decide to accept them because it's, well, just easier, more comfortable, and somehow feels safer. We determine the challenge of moving on is too hard—and the potential for pain too real.

The thought of experiencing the sharp barbs of rejection, ridicule, or intimidation doesn't seem worth laying ourselves and our hearts beyond our cozy safe place. So we remain tethered to the life diminishing idea that we don't really want or need to answer God's call, go here or there, or accomplish this or that. Or more often we simply remind ourselves we can't.

Pain is pain and it should not be ignored. Its roots must be exposed to the light. It could be we need professional help to break through the past hurt and fear holding us captive...but forward we must go trusting in God's promised strength—not our own.

The Risk and Reward of Getting Unstuck

I know what it feels like to live stuck in the whirl of pain-filled circumstances, feelings, fear, and wrong-thinking and I've learned—Staying boxed-in, hidden, and behind an imaginary line of safety is no way to live. It strips away joy and defies God's best for us.

Think about it, do you know of any person that's been successful in the eyes of the world that hasn't taken risks? I don't. They seem to understand the system of risk and reward...God's idea, by the way. Abraham risked going where God sent him without having a clue about his destination. Esther went to the King risking the loss of his favor and her head! The apostle Paul, unbound from his brutal past, wrote, spoke, and traveled at the risk of losing his life to go where God led him. They were willing to risk following God's leading for future and eternal reward.

I also recall many Scriptures reminding and encouraging us to take courage, do not be afraid, and to go. But none that teach us to stay hidden, bound, and afraid of stepping out and into the unknown of risk-taking. Going how, when, and where God invites us to go with him in our homes, communities, work, and ministry is the mysterious and purposeful journey we're meant to travel.

If we fail as we go, God comforts and teaches us through the experience...if we open our eyes to see. After all, for the Christian failure is not final. In failure we can ask questions, find answers and grow stronger, wiser, and more faithful. In God's economy, faithfulness to him and his calling is the definition of success.

As motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said: "Failure is a detour not a dead-end street." It's faithfully moving with God, not real or perceived failure, that counts.

Staying Stuck or Stepping Out

Stepping out of our stuck-ness means change. But change is uncomfortable and won't happen until the pain of staying stuck becomes greater than the fear of change.

It's crazy the damage staying stuck in fear and pain can do to a person's relationships, integrity, and hope. It's not pretty. Our stuck-ness in all sorts of things; ungodly thinking, relationships, jobs, addictions, guilt, and shame restricts our freedom, invites solitude and at its best causes us to live small lives focused on ourselves and our safety.

Which reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia), by C.S. Lewis. Mr. Beaver responds to a question about the safety of Aslan the Lion, who represents God in this story.

'Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.'

You, my friend, you're meant to step out—to think and act like a child of God. To move away from the fear and pain and choose change. To go where faith, trust, and confidence in our good God is required and brings him glory, benefit to others, and purpose to your life.

You already know deep, down your most meaningful life can't be lived where it's cozy, secluded, and safe. It must be lived beyond where you think you're able to go. Yes, it's a place full of challenges and risks and it may not be safe, but it's life with the King. The King who is good and calls you into his good plan.

Please know as in everything I write, I speak to my heart as I speak to yours. None of us are immune from stuck-ness. Do what ever you must to move beyond your pain, lying thoughts, and perceived threats of ropes, tethers, chains, and thorns. Take a baby step—or an elephant-sized one—through the door Jesus has already opened for you. You can and are meant to get unstuck and choose to go forward with our very good God faithfully and bravely answering his call on your life.

What thoughts are keeping you stuck? Where is God calling you to go?