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When it Doesn’t Feel Like You’re Making Progress

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“We are not making any progress,” I bluntly told the specialist at our 12-week follow-up appointment. My son had a health issue that we had been dealing with for a long time, but after three months of trying to work “the plan,” it seemed like we were back at square one, even more frustrated than when we started. Our perseverance and patience had gone out the window.

The calm, pleasant doctor listened carefully, then said, “You’re making more progress than you think. This is just part of the process. Now we tweak the plan.” He pointed out the small “wins” I had overlooked, and suddenly everything didn’t look so grim. How had I been blind to those things and lost hope? How had I lost all perseverance and patience?

Have you been there? Maybe you have a health issue as well, or a relationship that needs healing, or a career goal, or a discipline issue with a child. Whatever kind of mountain you are trying to climb, here are three things to give you hope when you feel like no progress is being made.

1. Tiny steps are still steps.

Our expectations skyrocket at the beginning of a journey toward change. We can already see the happy ending! We want to take giant steps–leaps forward. But when it doesn’t work out that way, our hopes are totally dashed. We go to the other extreme and think it’s a failure.

But hold on! Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Instead of focusing so much on this day, this week, this setback — look at the tiny steps that have been made from the very beginning until now. How have you gained knowledge you didn’t have before? Is there anything to be thankful for from the first leg of the process?

2. It’s normal for progress to feel like it’s moving at a snail’s pace.

On TV, a house in total shambles is transformed into a gorgeous new home in a matter of minutes. We start to believe progress in our lives should be that way too. But the truth is, it’s pretty rare when you get to draw a straight line from the problem to the solution. More often, we are drawing squiggly lines all over the page that seem to lead to nowhere. We wonder, “Am I going backward or forward?”

Take heart! You are still heading toward your goal, just in a more real-life kind of way. As Walter Elliot said, “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.”

3. There are good things happening in the meantime.

Some of our mountains take months, even years to climb. If the process involves a child and it depends on his or her cooperation (like mine did), it takes large amounts of perseverance and patience.

However, the waiting, the looking for answers, and the trying period leave room for faith. It provides an opportunity to trust — to lean on God and not just in our own efforts, which often reach their limits in situations like these. Just beyond our limits is a unique place where we can find a new kind of dependence on God.

Leo Tolstoy said, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” With perseverance and patience, faith and trust, you can keep fighting this battle! You will get there.

What other good things could be happening in the meantime? Growth? Hard lessons learned? Bonding? Could it be that those things are part of God’s plan (even if they weren’t part of ours)?

Tell us! How do you persevere when you feel like you are not making progress?


Have you ever done something that took a lot of patience?

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