Running well: The key to persevering through pain
Facebook recently reminded me of a memory with my husband that made me laugh to the point of tears. Although at the time, I remember feeling discouraged over the whole scenario.
A few years ago, we had decided to try running together. Neither of us were runners or athletes. We thought it would be good for our marriage as young parents to find something to do together and hopefully get ourselves in better shape. So we committed to getting up early one morning and headed to the gym.
Once there, we quickly found out that running is not as easy as it sounds to those who had never done much of it! The experience was not nearly as romantic as my mind had made it out to be. Upon returning home, my husband posted on Facebook that running was torture. He didn’t like sweating. He couldn’t breathe (he does have asthma, after all!), and he thought running in circles was as pointless as it sounded. That was the first and last time we ever ran together. 🙂
In theory, I had pictured the two of us wearing stylish running clothes (who was I kidding, we couldn’t afford name brand athletic wear), rising before the sun came up, and running in sync around the track. I had seen pictures of such things, and it inspired me. But we were two individuals with no technique, little stamina, and no true desire. The thought behind running as a couple was idealistic but not realistic for us. My husband has super long legs, allowing him to walk as fast as I can jog. Trying to run in stride together was not feasible. We had two very different strides and paces. On top of that, he has asthma, and the rod in my back from surgery caused me pain while running. As I watched him disappear around the track, I lost my will to persevere.
Running is hard. Long-distance running is grueling and takes a level of training and commitment that few are able to muster. Although I have never participated in anything more than a 5K, I have friends who have accomplished the amazing feat of finishing a marathon. Their drive inspires me while also questioning their sanity! But in my brief attempt at becoming a runner, I realized how important a running partner could be.
This is so true of the Christian life as well. In Hebrews 12:1,2, Paul writes:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (NLT)
As believers, we are in a race from the moment we surrender our lives to Christ until the time we either experience physical death or the second coming of Christ. We are given a great number of witnesses through the faithfulness of men and women recorded in Scripture to cheer us on as we persevere in our race. But most of all, we have the greatest running mate with Christ by our side. He never leaves or forsakes us. He is for us! When our bodies and minds grow weary, He gives us strength. When we lack motivation, He reminds us of the sacrifice He made on our behalf. Hope is waiting when we cross the line. Injuries, detours, inclement weather, treacherous terrain, and other hindrances can never separate us from God’s presence and care.
What’s the key to persevering through the pain as we are running?
Hebrews 12:1,2 is very clear on how we run our race with endurance: we must keep our eyes on Jesus, the champion of our faith.
Running is not easy as a beginner. It takes time, energy, and perseverance to develop a rhythm and pace. And to run for long distances, there is a lot to learn about how to run well. It can be very difficult when you are running alone. As soon as my husband took off and was out of sight, I lost my will to run. Peter took his eyes off Jesus and immediately began to sink. When he refocused from the waves to the master of the waves, he began to walk on water!
The realities of life weigh us down. Our understanding of faith may come in conflict with our ability to live it out. Reality may not match our expectations when things are harder than we imagine they should be. When our eyes can’t see Jesus, it’s easy to forget that we are in a race toward His likeness and glory. We believe that He is waiting for us at the finish line yet fail to remember that He is also in the journey. He wants us to run well, but He never expects us to do it alone. While others may forsake us along the way, we can be confident that He is running right beside us and providing the ability to persevere through the following means:
- We are surrounded through Scripture with a crowd of witnesses testifying to God’s goodness and provision. How encouraging! Read Hebrews 11 to be reminded that others had the same struggle and yet found God faithful.
- God has sent a helper in the Holy Spirit to run the race set before us. (John 14:26)
- Christ is living in us and empowering us to keep running. We are never alone! (Romans 8:10,37)
When you feel like giving up, hold on to the truths of Hebrews 12:1,2. Keep your eyes on Jesus and you will have all you need to run well.
*There is so much truth to learn from this passage in Hebrews 12 and others on running a race pleasing to God, so I am going to write a series of posts on running the faith race. Here are some of the upcoming topics to be watching for:
Running well: Persevering vs. Winning
Running well: Running the race marked out for YOU!
Running well: Identifying what holds you back.
Running well: 7 benefits of running together in Christian community.
How joy leads to endurance.