Matt Haig is an English author and journalist who often writes about depression and anxiety. Some of Haig's work, especially part of the non-fiction books, is inspired by the mental breakdown he suffered from when he was 24-years-old. The story below is from his book The Comfort Book.
Once upon a time, my father and I got lost in a forest in France. I must have been about twelve or thirteen. Anyway, it was before the era when most people owned a mobile phone. We were on holiday, the rural, landlocked, basic kind of middle-class holiday I didn't really understand. It was in the Loire Valley, and we had gone for a run. About half an hour in, my dad realised the truth. 'Oh, it seems that we're lost. We walked round and round in circles, trying to find the path, but with no luck. My dad asked two men - poachers - for directions and they sent us the wrong way. I could tell my dad was starting to panic, even as he was trying to hide it from me. We had been in the forest for hours now and both knew my mum would be in a state of absolute terror. At school, I had just been told the Bible story of the Israelites who had died in the wilderness and I found it easy to imagine that would be our fate too. 'If we keep going in a straight line we'll get out of here, my dad said.
And he was right. Eventually we heard the sound of cars and reached a main road. We were eleven miles from the village where we had started off, but at least we had sign-posts now. We were clear of the trees. And I often think of that strategy, when I am totally lost - literally or metaphorically. I thought of it when I was in the middle of a breakdown. When I was living in a panic attack punctuated only by depression, when my heart pounded rapidly with fear, when I hardly knew who I was and didn't know how I could carry on living. If we keep going in a straight line we'll get out of here. Walking one foot in front of the other, in the same direction, will always get you further than running around in circles. It's about the determination to keep walking forward.
This is a great story that we can apply to our spiritual lives. It’s easy to feel “lost in a forest” surrounded by life’s many distractions, but the most important part is that we “keep walking forward.” The Bible related the Christian life to a race. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and we are called to stay the course and remain faithful to the end. Apostle Paul used this same imagery near the end of his life: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” (2 Timothy 4:7). How did Apostle Paul stay on course and keep the faith? More importantly, how can we stay on course and keep the faith? Like a natural runner, we have to put off anything that would prevent us from running—sin or whatever else threatens our relationship with God. No matter how long our race may be, if we keep our eyes on Jesus and walk a “straight line”, He will guide us to our destination. We have the tools to get us through life, but we must all ask ourselves one simple question—are we determined to keep walking forward?
1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2