Running the Hard Race

“I’m just so tired of it being hard!”

My friend expressed this cry of her heart because she knew I understood hard, and that I understood the hard that lingers.  It’s been almost a year since I started to aggressively address my mental health, and that has been a whole lot of prolonged hard.

“I think if I knew what I was going to get out of this, I would be able to accept it better!”

Isn’t that the truth!   I know I sure do think that way.  Like I could totally accept the hard that is childbirth when I knew that I got a baby in the end.  Or when I played sports in high school, I would do lots of hard things to train my body to be able to succeed in the tasks set before me in the sport that were other than what my body would default into.

Running the hard race

Since I had that conversation with my friend, God has brought Hebrews 12:1-13 consistently in my meditation.  Enduring hardship as discipline has really helped sustain me in the past 11 months.  Believing that this pain was purposive– that through this God was birthing something in me.  This has been helpful.

As I’ve been reflecting, I’ve realized that I have a tendency still to look for what I’m going to get out of this pain.  That this discipline that strengthens my feeble arms and weak knees is going to produce something for me.  Like if I can only get trained enough, I will be SUPER CHRISTIAN who will emerge from this with a more profound way to minister to others going through pain.

That’s not the model that Hebrews 12 gives, however.  It does not instruct me to run with perseverance the race marked out for me fixing my eyes on how much better I’ll be when this discipline is through.  It doesn’t remind me that there is so much personal glory in enduring hardship as discipline.  On the contrary, I’m instructed to fix my eyes on Jesus, the One Who initiated faith in me and is making it perfect.  He modeled for me what I had to do- for the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning its shame.  He underwent physical, mental, and spiritual suffering with His goal firmly in front of Him- bringing glory to God by completing the work He gave Him to do (John 17:4).  He fixed His eyes on displaying the fullness, the truest essence of the Father.

And that’s where I need to fix my eyes as well.  Not on the comfort of I’ll be glorified by getting though this.  But that this discipline is a means to glorify God!  He is training me how to throw off that tendency to seek my own glory that so easily entangles me so that I can reveal Who He is to the hurting world He’s put me in. 

Insights for hard running

As I was pondering this and discussing with another friend, she asked me for practical insight.  Like how I do this on the days when the darkness, the intruding thoughts, seem overwhelming.

The answer is that sometimes I do it poorly.   I’m working on this, learning to do it.  Therefore, sometimes I fail and fix my eyes firmly on my pain.

And other times I focus on the character of God.  My verse for the year, Philippians 1:9-11, prays that my love will abound more and more in knowledge and depth of wisdom.  I need to know more of Who He is in His essence so that I love Him more and more.  And as that knowledge and love grows, I will become more focused on glorifying Him, revealing His character.   In practical terms, that means prayer, Bible study, and meditating on the verses that God inspires me to set on my phone’s homescreen.  And when my focus is especially threatened, I reach out for specific prayer from those I know will give it without condemnation.

And that helps when the race marked before me is through a lot of pain.  It gives me perseverance when I’m just so tired of hard.  What He intends to do with this discipline that is finishing my faith is His business.  And giving Him glory is mine.

Meanwhile, He is my very great reward, which is way better than getting a baby or mad basketball skills out of my labor!

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