I trained for my first half marathon last year. I remember making my first three-mile run and thinking, I’m exhausted! There is no WAY I’m going to be able to run 13.1 miles. But I kept reminding myself I didn’t need to run 13.1 miles yet. I only needed to run those three. So I followed my training schedule, and three miles slowly built to five, which eventually became seven and then ten, and before I knew it, I completed my first Flying PIg Half Marathon.
I learned a lot during that time. Running is a very mental sport. You’re constantly battling with your own mind to keep moving long after your body would tell you to quit. Sometimes I would experience that runner’s high around miles 5-7, but it would eventually fade, and the last 3-4 miles for me were always sheer will. Many things pushed me through those last few miles. I would look for fun distractions in the scenery around me to shift my focus away from the pain. I would find a song I love and crank the volume up even higher on my earbuds. I’d watch people even older than me and seemingly in worse shape running hard and strong, which was always motivating. They reminded me I didn’t have to quit. I could do it.
I have found my faith works a lot like training for a race. If I’m just haphazardly running around with no plan, no focus or purpose in place, I don’t get very far. I get weak and tired quickly. I stop and start; I quit and walk away. I get frustrated and angry when things don’t go my way, so I start running from God instead of to Him. And all around me is a wake of half-baked, half-hearted and ultimately abandoned attempts at spiritual growth, taunting reminders of my failures.
Faith doesn’t have to be that way. Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I’ve come to understand that God isn’t trying to stress me out or put me through some crazy obstacle course in life in order to prove myself. Instead, He’s trying to train me so I can become the very best version of who He created me to be – not perfectly, but consistently. It’s about taking one step of faith, completing that step successfully, and then completing another, then another. Over time, all those small steps add up to big growth and change!
Paul tells us in Hebrews 12:2,-3 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” When the course of this life feels overwhelming, I look at Jesus and His incredible, rich, extravagant love for me, and I get the extra push I need to keep moving. I hear His voice all around me through nature, through song, and in many other ways, encouraging me to move forward. I look at what Jesus, and all believers throughout history, endured and overcame, and I’m reminded I don’t have to quit. With God on my side, I can do it and overcome.
“So take a fresh grip on life and brace your trembling limbs. Don’t wander away from the path but forge steadily onward. On the right path, the limping foot recovers strength and does not collapse,” (Hebrews 12:12-13). You got this, because God’s got you!
For Further thought: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever,” (1 Corinthians 9:25). When your path feels overwhelming and overbearing, take time to let God build back into you and strengthen your spirit by doing something you love or that refreshes you. Read through the Psalms and Hebrews 11 about others who have struggled yet have overcome. Ask God to show up and strengthen you. You will find yourself strengthened again for the journey.