Everything about me looked like I was a serious runner.
Leggings, earbuds and my cellphone armband communicated to all onlookers that I was in the habit of exercising regularly. The elastic in my pants firmed up my otherwise wiggly cellulite, making me appear more toned. I felt good, looked the part and had a bright idea: Why not run today instead of walk?
The sun beamed on my face, the morning air was refreshing, and the songs on my playlist made me feel alive as I jogged to the beat. I was a runner … at least until my body began to tell me otherwise.
Initially, it was a subtle change: My legs started to ache, my skin started to itch, and my breathing became uncontrolled. Soon, I was completely out of breath and aching all over. Everything in me wanted to quit, but quitting was not an option. I had a self-imposed goal to run my entire route.
I did not want to break the commitment I made with myself, but my ambitions were more than I was capable of achieving that day. Reluctantly, I gave myself permission to alternate between running for as long as I could and walking when I needed a break.
Sometimes we need to offer ourselves this same type of grace in our faith race.
There are seasons in our lives when we look and feel spiritually strong. We faithfully have daily quiet time, attend Sunday services, forgive quickly, serve in multiple ways, adhere to spiritual disciplines and fellowship with others.
Then we experience unexpected obstacles we must overcome that leave us exhausted, out of breath and ready to give up. The author of Hebrews offers us encouragement for those seasons in our lives.
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us …”
This scripture comes after spiritual “giants” — Abraham, Sarah, David, Samuel and countless others — are commended for their faith. These people are the spectators of our faith race and a part of the “great cloud of witnesses” referred to in Hebrews 12. Because of the foundation they laid for us, the author of Hebrews says we can “throw off everything that hinders” and “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
My faith race this year has been one filled with many challenges. I wish I could say I immediately threw off my hindrances, sins and the things that entangled me, but there have been times when all I could do was just keep moving forward.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us quitting is not an option. Instead of quitting, we must learn to give ourselves grace.
I opted to run my faith race for as long as I could and to walk when I needed to. Walking does not equate to failure. It simply gives us the grace we need to persevere.
Walking may mean that for a season …
- We are intentional about resting more and serving less.
- We spend time with God instead of doing things for God.
- We pray prayers that are filled with more tears than words.
I am convinced walking will not disqualify us. God doesn’t ask us to sprint at top speed through our faith race; He asks us to persevere. God encourages us to choose a pace we can sustain over time. Sometimes this requires spiritually walking.
When we walk, we are still moving and believing in God, completing the race marked out for us and building up our endurance so we can eventually run again. Each of us has a God-appointed race only we can run. When life gets hard (and we know it will), may we focus on Jesus and walk with perseverance until we can run the rest of the way.
Dear God, thank You for giving me models for how to run my race with perseverance. When life gets hard, help me to keep going. Show me what it looks like to adjust my pace while continuing to persevere. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.