When things get tough don’t give up.

A symbolic image of a person pushing a boulder uphill represents perseverance during challenges.

When things get tough, don’t give up.

It appears that God grants us the opportunity to endure mistakes and challenges so that we may grow and learn from them. At least, that’s my interpretation. Recently, Jenna and I had what you might call a “heated discussion.” It wasn’t enjoyable.

Both of us were upset for a while after our conversation. Frankly, she tends to stay upset for an extended period before cooling down and being ready to discuss things.

The main issue is that I tend to get upset and then quickly calm down, a trait common among many men. Consequently, I often attempt to initiate the reconciliation process prematurely, which causes friction because she’s still upset.

As a result, I become upset once more, and this time my emotions linger for a while. Therefore, when she is finally ready to begin the reconciliation process, I’m still upset.

This leads her to feel guilty for being upset for so long and feeling like she missed the opportunity for a swift resolution.

Ultimately, we both attempt to mend the situation, but unfortunately, not at the most opportune moment. The reason I wanted to share this with you is that this pattern has persisted throughout the 18+ years of our relationship.

At our wedding shower, an elderly woman named Mary Dossey offered us some resolute advice. Her words are likely to remain with me for the rest of my life. I’ll relay them as she said them, without sugarcoating, because I believe it reveals her honest character.

She said, “Everyone will tell you never to go to bed angry. Hell, if Richard and I had followed that advice, I would never have slept! Sometimes, you need to cool down before you can begin addressing the problem.”

She was correct. We’re all unique individuals. Honestly, I believe God knew I needed to hear her advice because I tend to be.

Before we can tackle the internal issue, we must first shut down the system. Failure to allow it to cool down before commencing repairs will inevitably lead to getting burned in the process.

The initial step is to power it off, followed by allowing some time for cooling. Only then can we begin addressing the damage. Once everything is reassembled, it’s crucial to start slowly.

There’s no way I’d reassemble an engine and crank it up to full throttle immediately—not! I’m the kind of person who always ends up with a couple of “extra” bolts, so when I start it up, I’ll be standing behind something sturdy, praying fervently that nothing explodes.

The main point here is that after making any repairs, we must ease back into things gradually. We can’t just dive in at full speed. It takes time to regain momentum. However, once the repair is complete and a few enhancements are made—like adding twin turbos, upgrading pistons, and other improvements—that engine will run better than ever before.

Similarly, our relationships follow this pattern. When we address issues, we’re essentially adding these fantastic extras to our connection.

Whether it’s a shared journal, a safe word for pauses, or even dietary changes for better moods, it doesn’t matter. The point is that we can enhance the relationship to make it smoother, faster, and more effective after repairs, depending on the effort and time invested.

Now, you might be wondering, “Dan, what does this have to do with not giving up when things get tough?” If you revisit this, you’ll find the message, perhaps even between the lines.

But, much like Mary Dossey, I’m also a straight shooter. So, I’ll just be frank with you. Most relationships come to an end because someone decides to give up.

Likewise, many businesses fail, jobs are lost, and individuals drift away from their faith because they give up when faced with adversity. 
Do you grasp the significance of what I’m conveying here? When one party decides to give up, it often leads to both sides throwing in the towel eventually. However, the exception to this rule is God.
He remains steadfastly by our side; all we need to do is ask for His help (Matthew 7:7).

This unwavering support is why God continues to hold a significant place in countless lives. He never abandons us; forgiveness is readily available to those who seek it, regardless of the magnitude of their mistakes.

Now, it’s time to act. Here’s what I want you to do immediately: Think about a relationship in your life that requires reconciliation. Have you identified one? (Personally, I can think of several that could use some attention!) Great.

Now, offer a quick prayer for guidance and the right words, because you’re about to reach out to this person. Find a means to contact them—whether through social media, phone, or visiting them in person.

Don’t hesitate. Remember, God placed their names on your heart for a reason, so act without delay (Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”).

Let me be completely transparent with you. As I composed this blog post, Jenna and I were having a “heated discussion.” It began over something trivial and quickly escalated, largely due to my temper. 

(It seems I tend to fuel most of our “heated discussions.”) At the time of this writing, we hadn’t yet begun the process of reconciliation. However, a few realizations dawned on me as I penned this for others to read.

Firstly, by the conclusion of this writing, I managed to let go of all the tension and recognize that, despite being unpleasant, our heated discussions serve a purpose. Without them, I wouldn’t have written this devotional or had the opportunity to share it with the world. Everything, it seems, happens for a reason.

Secondly, I cherish the fact that we made a commitment long before we got engaged—that no matter what challenges we faced, we would remain together. There’s no “easy way out” for us. While some might interpret this as implying divorce is an easy solution, that’s not at all what I mean. I’ve witnessed firsthand the struggles of families who’ve gone through it, and I understand the profound impact it has on everyone involved. Our decision was to eliminate it as an option entirely.

So, if I ever mysteriously disappear and you can’t find my body, perhaps you should start asking Jenna some questions. Just kidding! (Well, kind of.)

There are numerous other lessons I’ve gleaned from this experience, but the purpose of this segment is to share a story. So, let’s delve into one.

Way back when Jacob was just a little guy, unable to even walk yet, we embarked on a trip to visit Jenna’s family for a few days before heading to the Redwoods. Since we were already up there, we figured, why not extend our journey a bit further?

Anyway, this incident occurred back in the days before smartphones, and possibly before any cell phones were in our possession—I can’t quite recall.

We were staying in Crescent City, CA, which remains one of our favorite destinations to this day. If you ever visit, I highly recommend it!

During our stay, we had a decent digital camera that we used to capture countless moments with our little family. On one day, while exploring a lighthouse in Crescent City, Jenna handed the camera to Billy, who was just 6 years old at the time.

Why? Because he was eager to take pictures of the ocean, and we always encourage our kids to pursue their interests.

However, neither of us was paying much attention, and Billy inadvertently left the camera on a bench as we walked back to the car. It wasn’t until about an hour later that one of us realized the camera was missing.

In a frenzy, I tore apart the car while Jenna searched the hotel room. Eventually, she emerged with tears in her eyes, recalling that she had given it to Billy in the ocean.

Instead of getting upset, we gathered everyone and returned to the spot where Billy had left the camera. But to our disappointment, it was nowhere to be found. Someone had evidently picked it up.

Undeterred, we proceeded to the town hall, hoping that someone might have turned it in. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case—no one had returned the camera there either.

Jenna was overwhelmed with guilt because we had amassed a plethora of pictures that were now lost without hope of retrieval. Determined to salvage some memories, we purchased a disposable camera during our time in the redwoods, eager to capture moments with the kids.

The situation left all of us—me, Jenna, and Billy—in a state of distress. However, our frustration wasn’t directed at each other; rather, we were disappointed in ourselves.

Ultimately, Jenna reached out to her stepmom, and their entire family rallied together, gathering all the photos they had of our family. Jenna’s stepmom then sent us an SD card by mail containing an abundance of pictures—five times the number we had taken originally.

In the end, it was a divine intervention. God provided us with all the images we could ever need to craft cherished memories. Since that initial trip, where we fell in love with the majestic redwoods, we’ve returned at least three more times. And on each visit, I can’t help but glance wistfully at that same bench by the lighthouse, reminiscing about our lost digital camera.

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