Hitting the Wall ― The Popeye Syndrome

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day―and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV)

There’s a phrase that runners use to describe what happens to them between the Tired Runnereighteenth and twenty-fifth mile of a marathon. During a marathon, runners often run out of fuel or energy. This takes place when their body exhausts all its carbohydrate fuel and starts burning fat for energy instead. This is commonly called muscle fatigue. When this happens many begin to lag behind in the slow lane instead of going at their usual top speed with the other runners. Sometimes runners get so tired that they feel like they can’t even put one foot in front of the other. This urge to stop running is known as “hitting the wall.” It describes an apparently insurmountable physiological barrier that can stop a runner in his tracks, consuming his will to finish the race.

This can also happen in the Christian race. There are times in your life when you’re racing along at top speed and feel like the world is your oyster and then suddenly… wham! You run smack dab into a wall. The world suddenly begins to fall down around you. Your zeal starts to dwindle. Your joy begins to drain, and peace seems to evade you. It’s then that you find yourself just chugging along in the slow lane of life on the verge of giving up. You’ve hit the wall.

Have you ever been there? I certainly have more than once. Therefore, I am keenly aware of the weariness that one feels when the Enemy unleashes a series of assaults on your world. I know all too well the sensations that one can experience when fear and doubt erupts in one’s heart and mine. I know how it feels when all hell seems to break loose against you and life smacks you senseless. It’s the Popeye Syndrome. You remember what Popeye says when he’s pushed to his limits, “That’s all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!” What do you do when you’ve reached your limits when you “can’t stands no more?” What do you do when you hit the wall?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

God has a race marked out for us. It’s a race that is tailor-made just for each of us. It’s a direction, a course, a calling for our life that’s designed in the heart of a loving God.
In addition, there’s also a wall waiting for us on our course. This wall is an interval in our life when our resources dry up, our energy is spent, and we feel like we can’t go on. Like the marathon runner, we come to an apparently insurmountable physiological barrier. Now, what do we do when this happens? How do we push through our walls?

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9 NIV)

In the original Greek, the words “give up” come from a word that literally means “to be faint, to grow weary, to be enfeebled through exhaustion or to be tired out.” It’s the same word used in Hebrews 12:3, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (NIV)

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13 NIV)

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6 NIV)

Godly perseverance is the key to smashing through that wall. We must keep on… keeping on. But most importantly, we must totally depend on God for the victory. Psalm 18:29 says, “With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” (NIV)

…for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9 NIV)

The “proper time” in the Greek literally means “a fixed and definite time.” 1 There is a crucial time element involved in this race of ours. A harvest is waiting for us on the other side of each wall we encounter. However, it will only be released to us at the precise time that we choose to persevere, push beyond human endurance, and spring forth into spiritual endurance. “We will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Remember the Dr. Seuss story entitled, Horton Hatches the Egg. In the narrative, Mazie was a very lazy bird. She did not like sitting on eggs. It was boring, and she wanted to see the world. So she asked Horton, a somewhat naive elephant, to sit on her egg while she took a vacation. Horton agrees to egg-sit and stays faithful to the task through the autumn, through the icy cold of winter and into the spring.

Then one day some hunters capture Horton and take him―tree, egg and all―to a circus. He doesn’t like being a captive, but Horton’s slogan was “faithful 100%,” so he would not leave the egg. Eventually the egg hatched, and Horton became the happy mother of a bouncing baby bird.

To me, the moral of this classic story is simple. Don’t get off the nest! Stay in the race, no matter how weary you may feel. Don’t give into the temptation to succumb to the pressures of this world. Your harvest is on the other side of that wall. Be persistent. Keep pushing against that wall. Cowboy up! Become like Popeye and stir up that fight that lies deep inside you. You don’t need a can of spinach; you’ve got the power of the Holy Spirit churning inside you. Release it!

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalms 73:26)

It’s not easy pushing through that wall, but anything worthwhile is seldom easy. Remember this when you’re hitting the wall―get your fight up and trust in God to give you the victory. Harvest is on the other side of the wall. So, keep on pushing!

…for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9 NIV)

Walk on
Til fear turns to faith and faith becomes sight
Where strength begins
You’ve got to press on
Move on through the pain
move on to the place
Where weakness ends
Where strength begins*

*Where Strength Begins by Phillips, Craig & Dean from album, Where Strength Begins, Copyright/Label: Label: Star Song



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