I hate to run.
I actually hate everything about running. The wind against my face messes up my hair, not to mention running makes you sweat and breathe heavily. When it comes to running, I am the first person to quit once it gets hard. I do not push through the pain, and I definitely am not determined to finish the race at all costs. I had much rather have a cup of coffee and read a book.
I have friends who love to run, who love to push themselves once they hit that point where it gets really hard to keep going. They say that after the big push it gets easy again and that the push builds your endurance; however, as stated before, I do not like to push. I do not like to be uncomfortable. In the moment of pain and hardship I prefer to give up for the release in the right now, rather than wait for the reward later. Once the pain starts, I do not care about finishing; I care about being comfortable again.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul encourages believers to run the race hard and focused, to strive as if they are reaching for a prize. Paul encourages us to run with perseverance and passion. Unfortunately, running with perseverance and passion requires running when the race gets painful.
This year, I have discovered that at times, I hate pushing past the pain in my spiritual life as much—if not more than—I hate pushing past the pain when I am running. I hate being uncomfortable. This has been a problem in my relationship with God; a problem I believe He is serious about solving.
This year I have started to sweat, breathe heavily, have achy legs and get messy spiritually. When the pain started I wanted to quit. I did not want to push through it. Relationships got complicated, hopes were disappointed and confusion was running rampant. My faith was in a place of despair. I felt like I was running in a desert with no oasis in sight.
Admittedly I had been praying to grow, I had cried out to go to a deeper level with God. To my great discomfort He honored my request. He chose to teach me perseverance, which ranks right below patience on the list of lessons I would have chosen to learn.
In the beginning, the part when it started to get painful, I prayed for release, for help, for things to be my way. I whined, complained and generally acted like a three-year-old.
Eight months into this lesson, I am praying prayers of thanksgiving.
One evening in prayer I broke down and told God how exhausted I was. I was waiting for Him to promise to release me from the struggles or to take the pain away. He did neither. Instead I felt lead to thank God for each difficult situation, for unanswered questions and for hard relationships. That was not easy, and it made me uncomfortable, but it gave me release and encouragement.
There is something in praise and thankfulness that affirms God’s sovereignty and builds our trust in Him. God did not take me out of my spiritual desert that night, but He did give me a vision for His purpose in this period of my life. That night I was reminded of this scripture from the first chapter of James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (TNIV).
Considering trials pure joy is a hard lesson to learn, but the promise of being “mature … not lacking anything” is a pretty amazing vision of who He wants me to be in Him. God is cultivating in me a spirit that thanks Him for the opportunity He is giving me to grow, to experience more of His character and to gain more trust in His ultimate control. He loves me enough to make me uncomfortable, and challenging me is a display of His great love and purposes for my life.
I’m still in the midst of persevering. I’m getting messier and sweatier everyday. For right now all I can say is that I am thankful. I have not come to a place of peace with the hard stuff. I am still very confused, but I’m thankful for the pain.
I’m thankful that I’m still running.