Have you ever wanted to move forward in your life but there were people holding you back?
Maybe you wanted to take a step in a new career direction, or you wanted to pick up a new habit. But there were people in your life — people who said they loved you, cared for you, created good memories with you — who are keeping you stuck. Whether intentionally or not, these relationships can lead you down a road that you never wanted to go on.
We’ve all experienced a level of toxic friendships. And while our human nature wants to keep them around and in our lives, sometimes God calls us to take a step of faith and walk into a new community, one full of people who advocate and lift us up instead of pushing us down. Of course, stepping in to that is easier said than done.
In her latest book, Christine Caine shares some important lessons about getting unstuck in your faith, your career, your life and your relationships. In a conversation with RELEVANT, Caine also shared some practical tips for moving forward, even if that means leaving difficult relationships behind.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
What are some steps we can take to make sure we’re looking to the future?
Christine Caine: The first step is always in your mind. You have to decide, because nothing changes until you change your mind. Our thoughts are like a train; they take us somewhere. You have to make a decision that you’re going to get on a train of thought that’s going to get you unstuck. Unless you change your mind, nothing else is going to change.
You can have all the feelings of “I don’t want to,” “this is hard,” “I don’t know what to do.” But you can make up your mind that says, “I am going to do whatever it takes to get unstuck. I’m willing to go through the process.”
For some people, getting unstuck might mean starting with therapy. For others, it might mean blocking, muting, or unfollowing certain people on social media. It might mean changing friend groups, enrolling in school, changing careers, or simply starting to walk around the block and get outside.
That’s the area that you have to begin to do the next right thing, but nothing is easy. There’s no guarantees. Like I wish I could tell you, “Here are three points. Do these and it’ll be fine.” But I can’t and it’s so overwhelming. Most of us have a hope of where we want to end up, but we don’t know how to get there. We minimize the value of the right next step because we think it’s too small, and we think what difference is this going to make?
So you say you want to improve your spiritual life. What difference is setting my alarm 15 minutes earlier and reading one chapter of scripture? I’m telling you, a year from now, that’s going to be all the difference in the world. What difference is it if I want to get a little bit healthier setting that alarm 15 minutes earlier and walking one mile around the block? In a year from now, it’s going to be all the difference. You’ve got to take it off in bite size pieces.
Because of the world that we live in, no one’s got any patience. Everyone wants instant gratification. We all want that change, but it’s not going to happen. This is not like a self help, three steps, two weeks to getting unstuck. This is, if you do this, you will get unstuck, but it’s not going to be easy to do this. But with God’s help, you can do it.
There’s a degree of pain for everyone but you can either have the pain of obedience or the pain of regret. And I’ve learned that the pain of obedience is always less than the pain of regret.
What should we do when our community is what’s holding us back from moving forward?
First, you have to discern with the Lord and with good counsel. We don’t want to be the kind of people who just write people off and move on. Sometimes, you have to do the hard work of really working through stuff. But for all of us, there are times when we want to move in a certain direction, and other people don’t want to move in that direction.
To varying degrees, sometimes you have to be brutal. I mean, if someone is taking you down a bad path, you might have to do the really brave and hard thing of cutting them off, if that’s necessary. And that is the only thing that’s going to help you to move forward. Other times, I think you always need to be as gracious as you can be and as kind as you can be. You don’t want to hurt people, you don’t want to dismiss them, but you also cannot stop from moving on.
I think when you can, you do it gently until you can’t. And I think that’s what happens. But in some cases, when I first became a Jesus follower, there were some friends I had to cut off immediately. I did it for my own sake, because I could not go back to my old patterns of destructive behavior. It was the case. So I’m always mindful when I say that, because there are times when you just have to do it, because it’s not good.
But then there are times, I could tell you distinct times in my 35 years of following Jesus, when I’ve had friend groups, really good friends, good people, good believers. Except I wanted to go further and I wanted to go deeper with Jesus, and I wanted to go more full on. And they didn’t.
And that was almost more difficult than the first group of friends that I had to let go of, because there were a lot of good memories and a lot of good things we did together. But the more you move on with the Lord, good is more often than not what stands in the way and becomes the enemy of the God thing.