I hate to run. Running is hard on the body, but it’s also hard on the mind. There was a phase in high school when I gave running a chance. As an uncompetitive freshman, track seemed like the best fit. I knew I could at least put one foot in front of the other, so I decided to give it a try. Because I didn’t seem to have the build of a sprinter, I ended up in the long distance division.
The greatest perk of that track season, besides building some pretty decent calf muscles, was that my best friend joined the track team too. This made practices not just tolerable, but fun. While the rest of the track team ran ahead, we would intentionally fall behind and jog slow enough to carry on a conversation.
If my friend happened to miss a practice or if the coach caught on to my game, I had to actually apply myself and work hard. At these times, I had to convince myself to keep moving even though I wanted to stop after every milestone. For every step, I battled the internal voice to quit, slow down, or rationalize my way out of the last mile. Then came the track meet. No longer was I trying to slow down and talk. There were too many people watching and too much at stake! Unlike practice, the race was a performance.
Because I had not pushed myself during practices, I did not have the competitive edge and stamina I needed to win the race. Without doing the practice necessary, I lacked the mental and physical endurance to perform well under pressure.
So it is in spiritual matters. In Philippians, the Apostle Paul likens the Christian journey to a race, and races require endurance. When I consider spiritual endurance, persecuted Christians in other countries come to mind, but endurance can also show up in other life circumstances.
For instance, endurance might look like the daily struggle of single parenting or surviving the slow, steady thrum of chronic pain. It might look like bearing up under a hard relationship or dutifully showing up at a job you despise so that you can pay the bills. Endurance comes in many forms.
Spiritual endurance is forged in uncomfortable or painful circumstances. Endurance means long-suffering. It means having grit. It means holding on and setting your face like flint to finish the job. Honestly, endurance sometimes means weakly holding on and praying for the strength to keep going.
I did gain some helpful tools during my time on the track team, one of which was a breathing technique. I learned to breathe in time with my feet hitting the pavement. In this way, the pace was set, and I found a rhythm I could sustain to the end of the race.
As Romans 5 (above) assures us, through endurance character is developed. The end result of building character is hope, and God promises that His hope will not disappoint or put us to shame. So, in whatever circumstance you find yourself enduring, pound the pavement, set the pace, breathe in and out, pray, and keep going, friends. His hope will not disappoint.
Pause: Breathe in and exhale slowly. Read and meditate on Romans 5:1-5. What do you take away from this passage?
Renew: Think about a circumstance in your life that the Lord has used or is using to build your endurance. Can you see character and hope forming through that circumstance?
Next: Pray this week for someone you know who is in a long-suffering situation. Consider writing them a note of encouragement or calling to check in with them.
May the Lord strengthen our faith and build our endurance muscles.
Pause, Renew, Next!