Step by Step and Breath by Breath: Living with Emotional Pain

My family and I spent our annual vacation in Colorado this past week. My wife has gone to Colorado virtually every Summer since she was a child…and that tradition has continued in our marriage and with our children. We generally go with all of Emily’s family, all rent one big house, and just pack in together…all 20 of us (10 kids and 10 adults). It is a blast. We so LOVE Colorado in the Summer. It is such an incredibly beautiful and relaxing place.

This year’s trip, for several reasons, was different though. This was the first time we had been back to Colorado with Emily’s family without her mom, Cynthia, and without our son, Trey. Trey and Cynthia LOVED Colorado. We have so many memories with both of them in Colorado, so it was difficult to say the least. However, it was also good in some ways. Coming back to the place they loved so much keeps them close in all of our hearts. Even though they were not physically with us, in some ways, being in Colorado made us feel like they were with us. I saw Trey in the family hikes, sunrises and sunsets, kick ball games, fishing trip, fun on the mountain top, riding the chair lifts, shopping on Main St, walking in the stream, pictures we took, and on and on! So…in many ways, being in Colorado was such a good thing. Some healing always happens for us in the mountains.

While I was in Colorado though, I ran almost every day. I continue to train for the full marathon I’m running in Chicago in October. As you can imagine, running in Colorado is much different than running in Oklahoma. Running at a high altitude in the mountains makes running doubly hard, but I did it any way. The first day I ran, it was cold, windy, and the hills about got the best of me…but step by step, breath by breath…I just kept running. Each day, I continued running, and each day was hard.

However, on the last day I ran, I discovered something. Yes, the run was still incredibly difficult. In fact, most of my daily runs were uphill…steep, uphill inclines. But, on the last day, I found myself feeling stronger. I struggled up the hills, but not as bad. I still struggled to breath, but wasn’t gasping for air like I did the first day. My legs still burned, but felt stronger…and step by step, breath by breath, I completed the final run.

As I was running, something hit me though. It was something I’ve thought before, but in the midst of running, I was just vividly reminded of a powerful reality. What came over me as I struggled to run, and climb the hills, and breath, was that this is what it feels like to live with emotional pain. Living with emotional pain is exhausting, overwhelming at times, causes you to want to quit, makes you feel defeated, and on and on. BUT…just as I ran step by step and breath by breath and kept pressing on, so I must do the with my emotional pain. I just have to keeping living step by step and breath by breath…that’s the only way to make it.

When I would run in those mountains of Colorado, I wasn’t thinking about how far the house was, I was just thinking about my next step…my next breath. I wasn’t thinking “just one more mile,” or even one more 1/2 mile or 1/4 mile…I was thinking “one more step,” “one more breath”…”come on Jeremy, you can do this.” In those moments, I realized that this is how I’m going to have to approach the rest of my life as I learn to live without Trey. I can’t think about how long it will be until the Lord returns, or how long it will be until I see Trey again, or how I’m going to make it another 40 or 50 years…all I can think about is my next step and my next breath.

Just like my body “somewhat” adjusted to running in the mountains, so I pray my heart can “somewhat” adjust to living with emotional pain. Running in the mountains is never easy, not even for the most physically fit person, and living with emotional pain will never be easy, not even for the most spiritually fit person…but…one step and one breath at a time, I’m praying I get a little stronger each day. As I have thought so many times, “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”…and that only happens step by step and breath by breath!

As the old praise song says, “And step by step You’ll lead me, and I will follow You all of my days.” I’m asking the Lord Jesus Christ to give me what I need for my next step and my next breath. If you are living with emotional pain, don’t look too far ahead…just focus on your next step and your next breath! That’s really all you can do and truly the only way to live with emotional pain.

You pray for me and I’ll pray for you…”Heavenly Father, please give us strength for our next step and our next breath until You return or call us home.”

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