I’m not an athlete.
I’ve never trained for a physical event more challenging than a 5K walk.
I do, however, have friends and daughters who have trained. My admiration for each runs deeply. Their dedication and commitment to build endurance necessary to compete in a race or complete an event always impresses me.
Even as training toughens up a person to compete in or complete a physical event such as marathon, triathlon—even a 5K walk—spiritual training is also essential to toughen up the Christ-follower who determines to run well the race of faith.
Two days ago, I met a young professional woman for coffee. “How are you doing?” I inquired while hugging her. “Okay,” she said initially. Then she admitted, “Well, actually, not so okay! Get your coffee, and I’ll fill you in.”
The woman told me that a few months earlier, she’d taken a leap of faith, resigned her secure job and opened a private practice. She’d planned thoughtfully. Her husband was supportive, and most of all, she felt convinced she was doing what God wanted her to do. Since making the decision, though, she’d been bombarded with one crisis after another.
Challenges related to finances and unexpected family stressors were weighing her down. One of her coping mechanisms had been stress eating, and the consequence of that behavior was now also weighing her down. In addition to everything else, she struggled to deal with her weight gain.
My friend’s body, soul and spirit were weary!
Yesterday, another woman—a wife and mama to four active kiddos—texted some trusted friends about the mega stress of her day. She’d known her day’s schedule left no wiggle room, but since rising in the morning, she’d been assaulted with one unscheduled and unanticipated difficulty piled on top of another.
Around 9:00 p.m. she was finally able to settle down and work on notes for a conference presentation she’s been asked to make. Her invitation to present at the conference is a great honor and seems nothing short of a miracle. God’s fingerprints are all over the project. But, in spite of that, the reality is a deadline looms. Only two days remain before her notes must be submitted, and writing isn’t her top strength.
Already exhausted physically and emotionally when she began working on the notes, my friend felt ill prepared to cope when her computer decided to stop working! A 9:22 p.m. text declared she was “freaking out” and felt like throwing the laptop across the room.
My friend’s emotional resources were depleted!
Life at this particular phase of my journey is fairly free of extra stress. But, there have been many times when I would have been lying if I’d made that claim. I’m all too familiar with struggles such as those my two friends are trying to navigate.
I recall times when I yelled at my kids who were just acting like kids because I permitted their age-appropriate behaviors to ‘drive me crazy.’ I remember snapping at my husband’s perfectly permissible question, telling Ron I couldn’t answer because I had no more answers left inside of me.
Oh, yeah, I’ve whined my fair share during times of stress.
I’ve gotten angry.
I’ve lost sleep.
I’ve retreated and slept too much.
I’ve overeaten because of stress.
Once, during a particularly high-stress season, I recall praying, “God, this is TOO HARD!” and in response heard the still, small voice in my human spirit reply gently but firmly, “I didn’t call you to EASY!”
My heart goes out to my two young friends. What they’re experiencing is tough. I’m praying for each of them. But, my prayer isn’t that God will make life easy. Rather, I’m praying God will give them strength to keep placing one foot of faith in front of the other. I’m asking God to be gracious and give each the resolve to keep enduring until the corner of current circumstances is turned.
Even though I don’t invite God to bring on a hard season, I know it’s been during tough times—periods when my faith has been stretched and my frail humanity has reared its ugly head—that my soul has been strengthened.
More than 2000 years ago, a new sect called “Christians” knew much about stressful times. They were persecuted for their newfound beliefs. Some were martyred—a very tough time to be a Christ-follower. Against this historical backdrop, James penned these words:
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4 NLT)
As well as praying for my two friends, I’m asking God to give each of you endurance for the race of life you’re being called to run…
“No faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity. Tried faith brings experience…You would never have known God’s strength had you not been supported amid the floods.” (Charles Spurgeon, 19th Century British Preacher)
Listening on YOUR Journey
• Consider a tough season you’ve experienced or currently are experiencing. What lesson(s) do you believe God was/is trying to teach you?
• When you emerge from training that toughens your faith, how do you hope God will use the experience for divinely good purposes?