Triumph slump

As great as mountaintop moments are, they don't last forever. Jarrod Stackelroth shares some tips for navigating through life's inevitable valleys.

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“Get behind me Satan!”

Of all the surprising phrases in the Bible, this one (Matthew 16:23, Mark 8:33) is both unexpected and bewildering. Here is Jesus rebuking His friend, the guy He recently pumped up and applauded. Now Peter gets likened to the great enemy, the father of lies, a destructive and malevolent power.

Peter’s head must have been spinning. He had the best of intentions—was just looking out for his guy, you know, trying to help out with some PR, get Jesus’ public image right. After all, they’d seen followers leave. Not everyone could swallow some of Jesus’ harder teachings.

I’m sure we’ve all been in Peter’s shoes. We’re out there achieving great things, feeling confident and comfortable, and then we put our foot in it.

Sometimes, like Peter, we get too big for our boots. We forget the humility or careful planning that has gotten us somewhere in the first place and we get put in our place. We make a mistake, misread a situation or mix up our motivations.

Cruising on the coat-tails of our conquests—it is often then we come crashing down to earth.

Yet it’s not always a mistake that we make. Sometimes we complete something amazing and then don’t know what else to do. We just feel flat.

For example, we have an amazing, spiritual experience at church camp or a week of spiritual emphasis. We make resolutions and decisions about how we will live or what we need to do to hold onto the high.

But when we get home, things come crashing down. We move from mountaintop experiences straight into a valley where we sometimes miss the mark.

"I'm sure we've all been in Peter's shoes."

The nature of the mountain is that we have to come down. There is no staying there forever.

I’d like to call it “triumph slump”. You work towards a goal or something big. You get there and achieve it and then it’s hard to reset and move on. Instead you might feel flat, empty, confused or sad.

Maybe you’re going through a triumph slump right now, or maybe you’re just coming out of it or maybe you’re about to go through one (if this article gives you nothing other than a name for it, well at least that’s something).

If so, here are some things to remember:

• What Jesus said about Peter still stood. He was still blessed. He was still Peter the Rock. Just because he messed up, it didn’t mean the way God saw him had changed, and didn’t mean the promises he’d been given were rescinded. He just needed a reset.

• Be humble. Humility is about keeping our focus in the right place. Sometimes when we stumble it’s a good reminder for us. If we are a bit stuck after a grand project is finished, we refocus on our dependence on God as we look for the next path He opens for us.

• Don’t be too discouraged. If you stuffed up, own up and fix it. Even if you didn’t, maybe you’ve been working hard and expending a lot of energy—it can take a little while to refocus and reload, ready for the next thing. Know how you operate and take a few deep breaths before relaunching. This can be a good time to knock off a few of those things you always put off while you regroup for your next goal.

• Self-care is important. After Elijah’s triumph on Carmel, he experienced a rather major triumph slump. He feared for his life and literally slumped under a tree. The angel’s command: “Arise and eat”. Life’s great events can take a lot out of us. It’s the simple things that can give us a pick-up and get us ready to go again.

At the end of the day, there are any number of reasons we can feel a bit flat, disillusioned, tired or rebuked. It’s important in those seasons to refocus on God, looking to Him for our strength. Peter went on to lead the early church. God’s calling you too!