Embracing Difficulties to become an Expert

Posted on: August 14th, 2012 by Lisa Van Wyk 4 Comments

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Lisa’s path

Have you ever traveled on a difficult path and was a better person for it?  I was on that path recently, but it taught me some surprising lessons.

It was a chilly 40 degree spring day.  Somehow I was talked into waking up too early to mountain bike on unfamiliar terrain through the woods.  A disastrous concept at best.  I was with my girlfriends, Terri and Amy, at Hartman State Park, which is known to have one of the finest mountain biking trails in Northeast Wisconsin.

When I say “best” trails, to the extreme bikers, this means bike paths with narrow 3’ openings between “concrete” pines, hundreds of roots to “jump” over, and 2’ boulders to meander around.  There are steep cliff edges to avoid, rises in elevation that leave you burning, roller coaster drops that send you careening off the beaten path, climaxing in breathlessness.  That, my friend was the Easy track!

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when we decided to bike that day. I went flying over the front of the handlebars within the initial 30 minutes of our adventure.

More difficult anyone?

So, when Terri pulled up to the first fork in the road, contemplated the choice between the Easy and More Difficult road signs, looked back at me, and said, “Let’s take the More Difficult track,” I thought this girl is crazy! 

My mouth dropped in disbelief as I mumbled sarcastically, “Where is the Red Exit sign?”

Terri gave me that photogenic smile and irresistible twinkle in her eye, and I knew I was in trouble.  “Come on Lisa, you’ll love it,” she giggled.  I couldn’t say no.

Where’s Amy to get me out of this one?  Forget it.  There was no possible way I could get her to gang up on Terri with me because Amy is the type of person that just looks the Devil in the eye with a smile and a shrug.  She’s a work horse.  Trouble comes, and she doesn’t even break a sweat.  While I was huffing, puffing, and looking forward to getting off at the next stop, Amy rode along as easily as an elderly lady on a Sunday stroll.

I’m done.  It’s my last day on earth.  I’m never going to survive this!

Terri’s training exercise

Somehow, Terri was right.  Unknowingly, she taught me an important lesson that day.  You can’t become an Expert if you stay on the Easy Track.  We spent the next two hours conquering territory we’ve never seen before.  We discussed the proper mechanics of braking.

  • Don’t slam on the front brakes; you’ll fly over the handlebars! 
  • Slow down around corners and between trees; it will be easier to maneuver. 
  • Keep your arms loose; it’s helps control the unexpected bumps. 
  • Stand up while hopping logs; you won’t get thrown off. 

We found our way out of the woods, packed up our gear, laughed and smiled at our latest adventure.  We had no right being on those trails.  We lacked some of the right equipment, training, and experience.  Even so, on this journey, we learned what we needed to know.

As we experienced the terrain together, Terri, Amy, and I came one step closer to being Experts.

We became Experts because we chose to take the More Difficult track and let the experience teach us.

Education is important, but it is only one facet of the learning process.  We may still be novices compared to world-renowned athletes, but we are one step closer than ever because we chose to get off the Easy track and ride the More Difficult path.

Every journey will have its difficulties, but the difficult path made us more experienced.

Don’t get left behind.  If you want to become an Expert on your journey, you must be willing to not only face your fears, but also embrace them.  That means getting up, getting in the race, facing what could be a difficult path ahead, and tackling issues head on, knowing full well that you will be better off because of it.  You’ll be more experienced and prepared to make wise decisions or help others out in light of that journey.

Digging Deeper

Every day there is something on our journey that may cause us fear or push us out of our comfort level:  broken friendships, loneliness, challenging work processes, unfulfilled romances, mean kids, neglectful parents, death of a loved one, confusion, crabby coaches, streaks of unemployment, or just plain overwhelming feelings. 

But God says that we can rejoice in our sufferings; it is a testing of our faith.  We can rejoice because God is powerful enough to use our troubles (if we learn from them) to build IN US:

  • endurance
  • character
  • hope

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).

Easy going Amy

When we struggle through our trials, bring it to God, and work through them, our perseverance produces in us an endurance that will take us farther along our journey.

We gain valuable experiences and knowledge that we can redirect our actions and make us wiser.  This wisdom quickly matures us and molds our character.When we surrender our lives to God and place our faith and trust in what Christ has done for us and in us, no matter what comes our way, we can have everlasting hope.

We can have hope, because even when we stumble, God’s unconditional love for us can never be erased and His greater plan in us and through us is already marked victorious. We can place every situation in His hands and know full well that God can bring restoration on our broken road.  This type of faith fills us with peace and joy.

God will take our lives, and what may seem like a difficult path and turn it into streets of “gold.”  So walk like the gold-medal winner you already are.

2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:2-5).

Sometimes we have amnesia and forget how truly blessed we are in the middle of our stormy journey.  Francesca Battistelli said it well when she sang “This is The Stuff” that drives me crazy.  This is The Stuff that’s getting to me lately.  In the middle of my little mess I forget how big I’m blessed.”

What difficult journey have you walked through, learned from, and finished stronger for having gone through it?

Share your comments or story to be entered into this month’s drawing for one of four copies of 

Cheri Keaggy’s new music album “So I Can Tell”

 Action Point

When traveling, plan your outings ahead of time and use common sense.  Spend a few minutes browsing paper and/or online maps of the area around your destination to get acquainted with the route and town you plan to visit.  Even though we used both Google Maps and our default smartphone navigators to direct us to our state park, they both took us on a long detour through neighboring homes and still didn’t get us to the park entrance.

We opted to disengage from the GPS’s on our smartphones and just follow the local road signs which finally brought us to our destination.  Technology may be convenient, but it is not accurate 100% of the time.  And don’t forget the most important safety tip: Go with a friend!  Good luck and God speed!


Lisa is our founder and visionary. In the summer of 2010, she founded the Sisterhood with a heartfelt desire in mind: to see women reach their maximum potential by living for God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). She is passionate about encouraging women to use their God-given talents for the kingdom.
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4 Responses

  1. Donna Schmitz says:

    Very nice article. 🙂 I think its natural for all of us to grumble through our adversity. Although, it is true that anything worthwhile is never easy, but anyhing worthwhile is always worth the cost. Even if the cost is painful and it usually is. Its in the midst of those circumstances though that God’s presence is closest. He’s there even when we feel like the world has abondoned us. Many times we don’t understand why we have a certain difficulty until we come through it. Its usually only in restrospect that we see the gold nugget God has gifted us with through the difficult circumstance. It is why, at the end of the day I wouldn’t trade my difficulties and the pain that came with them for anything. 🙂

  2. Kathryn Thorne says:

    Excellent post Lisa!! As you and other of my Sisterhood Friends are aware, I have struggled w/Health Challenges my entire life, sometimes w/acceptance, other times w/less than acceptance, sinking into the PIT of depression. HOWEVER, just this week, I had lunch w/a Sister in Christ and she was speaking admirably w/all I deal w/’health wise’. I was honest in saying that YES, it HAS been difficult BUT, looking back, if I had not had these challenges (emotional and health), I would not have had the opportunity to share how God has strengthened me, equipped me, come along side me, and EMPOWERED me to share all HE has done IN & THROUGH me to share w/others! I literally AM an ‘open book’ when it comes to sharing my struggles, challenges AND victories b/c I believe that my HEALTH is HIS platform to speak of HIM! So, Lord ~ BRING IT ON and I’ll continue to give YOU the GLORY for all you HAVE done and WILL continue to do on my on-going health journey w/YOU by my side. Btw ~ My at home music studio name in WI was AT YOUR SIDE b/c that is where I did my teaching ~ on the side of a piano student on the bench or on the bench myself, accompaning a vocalist. Well, now that name continues in my life b/c I am at YOUR side Lord, watching and waiting for what you will do next. This is TRULY the BEST seat in the house!

    • Lisa Van Wyk says:

      Thanks Kathryn. I always love hearing your story and being reminded that no matter what the challenge (ie. health), God is with us and can use our circumstances to grow and empower us. I’ve realized that God blesses us by letting us be a co-author of our lives. How we respond and what we take away from the challenges, gives us an opportunity to share with others how great He is and how much we are blessed. We have so much to be thankful for! I love how you now view “At Your Side”! I’m praying these chapters of your life will be the BEST YET! ALWAYS WITH LOVE, LISA

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