It is like a scene from a box office thriller. He is running, fast and furious. His heart is racing. His breathing is so labored from exhaustion that it has a voice of its own: “I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” As his steps grow closer together, and shorter in length, he finally succumbs to the exhaustion. He is willing to quit running even if it means he is captured by whatever is chasing him. Because he is tired. So he just stops. Dead in his tracks. Collapses. Melting into the earth — the mud, the leaves, the sticks, and filth. His heart tells him he should stand up and keep running. His mind replays every locker room pep talk he ever heard about never giving up. But he just can’t do it anymore. He has given his all, and he is exhausted. Tears fill his eyes and leave marks on his sweat-stained face. He has tried. And to him, he gave it all. But now he is done.

I can identify with this kind of exhaustion. It is far more than just a lack of sleep exhaustion. It’s an I-can’t-even-manage-to-breathe-anymore type. It can happen when life throws you a lot of curve balls. Maybe it is a death. The loss of a job. Betrayal. A divorce. Whatever it is, you have been running, trying to keep up with the life you once knew and hold it all together. That terrain was familiar; it was comfortable. And so, finding yourself in a new season, you are trying still to run the same race you once did. But the thing is, the terrain has changed. You wonder, Should I walk? Should I run? I’m so tired, I’m so wounded and hurt I can’t even imagine crawling. So, I guess I will just lay here.

As you lay there, you feel guilty because you hear that little voice telling you to “run the race,” “take hold of the prize,” “fight the good fight.” But here is the thing: You don’t WANT to fight anymore or run the race. I get that. I have been there. And you know what? It is okay. Did you hear me? I will say it again so it sinks in. IT IS OKAY. You have permission to lay down and quit. You have permission to cry and say you can’t do this anymore. You can be free of the guilt that comes with the expectation that says you should BE more, DO more. After all, it’s not only what others expect from you, but what you expect from yourself.

Here is the beauty in all of this: When you are laying there defeated and questioning everything, laying there in the mud and refuse, giving up —

He is on his knees next to you. In the mud. Like tending to a wounded animal, he calms you with his love, strokes his hands along your back tenderly. He whispers in your ear, “You don’t have to do anything. Just lay here. Rest. Be with me. Let go. I’ve got this.” You hear the words, but they just don’t register. Although you feel the love at times, the struggle is still very real.

But those words…

There is something in those words that makes you feel like you can maybe, just maybe, breathe a little. As they sink in, you feel you can actually crawl a little in the mud. Each labored movement gets you back on your feet. Each one of his words gets louder and more powerful.

I love you. I love you for you. You don’t need to be more or do more.

I created you for a purpose.

You haven’t lost your identity. But I am building onto your old one.

I gave you power.

I will fight for you.

I will protect you.

I will bring justice to you.

I will restore what was lost.

I will bind up the wounds of your broken heart and replace it with joy.

You are more than a conqueror!

You don’t need to do more or be more. You can win with what I gave you!

As each word takes root in your heart, you start walking and moving forward again. You find yourself moving quicker, each step a little lighter. You are feeling bold, confident. You are walking and find you no longer need to run.

And you know why? Because you have embraced the truth that he carried you through. You are no longer in that dark, unfamiliar place. You are no longer being chased because he has been shielding you. As the eyes of your heart are open, you are seeing this new place in the light of truth, a place bright with possibility and promises about to be fulfilled. A place filled with hope and newfound joys!

The battle is always real, friend. Allow yourself the time to do battle. Grieve over the casualties. It IS okay. Give yourself grace in the moments when you just can’t fight anymore, but also know this truth: The victory, and the blessing to claim in the end, is also very real. And worth every single step along the journey.

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am GOD, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you…..This is what GOD says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies— they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”

Isaiah 43:1-21 MSG


Caryn Setterlund is an elementary school teacher, cancer survivor, and single mom to a beautiful 11-year-old daughter. She resides in Alexandria, Minnesota. Caryn enjoys writing, laughing, loving on others, and Wonder Woman.