Sometimes we press through tunnels because we know joy awaits on the other side. We face a lot of tunnels on the journey of “pressing beyond the tough stuff.” The commitment to living a joyful life is about pressing through the tunnels because we have FAITH and a CONFIDENCE that we will meet joy on the other side of the tunnel. … and besides… tunnels are an adventure in and of themselves!

In this episode of the CalibrateLife Podcast we talk about tunnels as the necessary work of pressing through the difficult places in order to experience the inevitable joy of “the other side.”

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We use a lot of hiking analogies because we love to hike and we think of life as a press to the next summit. Pressing beyond the though stuff and experiencing the joy of living, leading, and loving. It is a way of life for us.

Sometimes you cannot feel the joy of living when you are pressing beyond the tough stuff. On a climb to the summit, sometimes it is the anticipation of the summit that keeps you pressing forward. The joy is sometimes a joy deferred. Sometimes the joy is the joy of knowing you will experience joy later.

Every relationship and every journey has what we call “tunnels.” Years ago I heard a talk given by Bill Hybels about the tunnels of relationships. I would credit the talk, but I do not remember where it was, the medium, or even when it was. It was just one of those moments that a thought connected in my brain. The tunnels are the hard and dark places that we press through to get to the other side. They are the challenges we must overcome. Everyone’s life has tunnels and every relationship has tunnels to press through to get to the other side. The “tunnels” are the work of life to get to a better place.

We are committed to living joyful lives, but sometimes we have to press through tunnels. Jesus endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him.”

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12.1-2 ESV

Sometimes we press through tunnels because we know joy awaits on the other side. The commitment to living a joyful life is about pressing through tough stuff because we have FAITH and a CONFIDENCE that we will meet joy on the other side of the tunnel.


Tunnels make some journeys possible. Without them the journey would be perilous or impossible.

When hiking in Italy we hiked up Mt. Pasubio. In 1917, during World War I,  600 men strategically cut a path with 52 tunnels up Mt. Pasubio. The terrain was too difficult for an army to traverse, especially with armaments and supplies, so this path with 52 tunnels gave the Italians a strategic and defensible advantage.

Some of the tunnels were long, in fact we were briefly lost in one of the tunnels that had more than one direction. Other of the tunnels were short and the end could be seen from the beginning. The longer and darker the tunnel the more unsettling they were. This was a hike that required lights in the middle of the day.

These tunnels were strategic and important to the defense of a region.

Tunnels can alleviate a lot of long-term pain. 

When I was a boy growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountain region of Appalachia I usually suffered motion sickness on every car trip. It used to take an agonizing 45 minutes to get over East River Mountain to travel from West Virginia into Virginia. Somewhere on the journey over the mountain I usually needed to stop and empty my stomach.

About halfway through my childhood a 4 lane tunnel was completed through East River Mountain as part of I-77. Now, what used to take a very scenic 45 minutes takes about 45 seconds through an artificially lit tunnel. It saves a lot of time and gets us along quickly on the journey.

Sometimes it is better to just press into a tunnel than it is to put it off, avoid it, and hope it will go away. We can elongate our difficulty and pain by refusing to go into the tunnels on our journey.

Tunnels can speed us along to our desired destination.

The Mont Blanc Tunnel from France to Italy saves about 60 miles of quite difficult travel. This 7-mile-long tunnel (11 kilometers) is a major route for travel and commerce. It cuts under a 15,000 foot peak.

We did not drive through this tunnel, but on one of our hikes we came to the entrance of the tunnel. We observed a line of cars and trucks waiting because each vehicle was being checked for security reasons.

Tunnels are dark, but the save you a lot of time in the end.


The only difference between a tunnel and a cave is a tunnel has two openings and it’s purpose is getting from one place to the other. We were hiking in Clifty Falls Park in Southern Indiana a few months ago. We came on an entrance to either a cave or a tunnel. I did not know which it was, but there were a lot of footprints going in, so we pulled out our light and went in. We later discovered that it was an attempt at putting a railroad through the area, but the low ceiling tunnel was never completed as a railroad tunnel.

Walking through it was dark and wet and completely dark without the light. After a while we came to a place where we could see the light from the other end.

I get a bit uneasy in tunnels (or caves). For one I am claustrophobic and I always want to know the way out, and to know that I can quickly escape any tight situation.

Why? What is unsettling about tunnels?

It’s the unknown. We aren’t sure how this is going to turn out.

I don’t like bats, spiders, or damp dark places. I don’t like confined spaces. We do not like the unknown. The second time through, when I know what to expect, I don’t mind at all… it is the unknown I don’t like.

The tunnels we go through in life are unsettling because we often do not know how long or difficult they will be.

When you are going through a life-tunnel, use affirmations to alleviate your fears. Remind yourself that previous difficulties turned out okay. Remind yourself that God has always helped you before and he will help you again. (Like the story of David and Goliath: God helped me with the bears and the lions and they were bigger than I am, so I presume he can and will help me with this giant.)

When we go through the tunnel of the unknown our minds start playing “what if….”

“…what if there’s an earthquake?”

“…what if the tunnel caves in?”

“…what if my light stops working??

“…what if we get lost?”


We face a lot of tunnels on our journey of “pressing beyond the tough stuff.”

We face relational tunnels, conflicts we go through with the people in our lives. Every relationship has dark times. Keep in mind you are going to a better, or at least necessary place in the relationship when you are going through a tunnel. You are doing the hard work that will pay dividends of joy.

When you are going through a relational tunnel keep in mind that if you do the work in the right way you will come into the light on the other side and you will be stronger, better, and in a better place.

We face provisional tunnels, times when we fear we will not have what we need or that God will not provide for us. When we are in the dark place waiting for the miracle, waiting for the relief, waiting for the tunnel to end it is easy to start doubting.

When we go from one place to another place, when we take risks, when we believe for things bigger than ourselves we always go through tunnels of darkness where we ask the “what if…” questions.

Again, the greatest remedy is faith and affirmation that we survived the last tunnel, we will survive this one as well.


  1. A tunnel has a beginning and an end. You will come out the other side if you are bold enough to go in the entrance.
  2. Tunnels are necessary in life and relationships. We will endure hardship for the joy set before us.
  3. The purpose of a tunnel is simply to facilitate a journey. The tunnel is not the focus. The tunnel is not scenic. We want to enjoy everything, but a tunnel is not for enjoying, it is for facilitating the journey. The tunnel is functional. We endure the tunnel for the joy set before us.
  4. You usually cannot see the end when you go in. The more necessary the tunnel the more likely you will not be able to see the end when you enter. We go forward by faith, believing there is an end and the darkness will take us to a good and joyful place.

Calibration Tools… Calibrating our lives and lifting those we love and lead.

  1. Recognize the tunnels. Are you going through a transitional point in your life right now? Identify it. What are the things causing darkness and anxiety in your life today?
  2. What is the joy placed before you? What’s on the other side? Can you focus on the other side, the payoff for pressing beyond the tough stuff?
  3. What is the hard work of this tunnel? We travel through darkness for a reason. What is it? What is the hard work you need to do to get to the other side of this tunnel?


Tunnels can be fun, they are a part of the great adventure. Usually, they are right there on our map, so they shouldn’t be a surprise. They can be scary and dark, but they can also evoke anticipation of new places and opportunities. A tunnel takes us from one place to the next. If we get over the fear and the anxiety, we will find the tunnels to be an exciting part of our adventurous journey.