Faith, Hope, promises, Running

Life is a Marathon

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Although I am nowhere near ready to run another long-distance event right now, I have found myself reflecting frequently on my half-marathon last year. While I love the sense of accomplishment from training for and completing such a challenging event, I had no idea the impact it would have on my spiritual life.

As I was running last year, I remember feeling as if there were four distinct phases of the run. Phase 1 lasted for the first 2-3 miles. During this first phase, I found myself thinking about the daunting task of running 13.1 miles. I wondered what I had been thinking when I signed up for this ridiculous task, and I struggled to get into a groove.

During the second phase, I seemed to hit my stride and felt as if I could run forever. I enjoyed all of the sights. I was able to interact with the crowds gathered along the sides of the street, shouting words of encouragement. I marveled at how good it felt to be out there, running, without burden.

Around mile ten, I began to sense the stress that my body was under. And thus began phase 3. Every muscle in my body ached. I was tired. I was hungry. It was a struggle to keep going. But, as I looked at the mile markers, I knew that I had come so far! It would have been crazy to quit when I had made it this far! It was a matter of sheer grit and determination to keep pushing forward in spite of the pain. With every step, I kept thinking that the finish line had to be just around the corner.

Finally, I saw it! Blowing in the gentle breeze was a huge “Finish” banner, proclaiming that I had made it. There in the crowd I heard the shouts of my kids and my sister. With a final burst of energy—summoning every ounce of strength left in my body—I sprinted across the finish line and collected my medal. I had completed the race. I had fought the good fight.

I can’t even start to tell you how many times God has used that illustration—those stages of the race—to encourage me in this race called life. As I reflect over the last few years, I can clearly delineate the phases. The early days of adultery and divorce were daunting and hard. I struggled to get into a groove. Finally, in the summer of 2011, I sold everything “we” owned, moved, and started fresh with my kids. It was hard, but so cleansing and cathartic! I reached a place of peace, of trusting God to handle my future.

The next two years were relatively easy and enjoyable—and then I hit August of last year. I clearly remember calling out to God, begging to understand why things were getting so hard. God simply said, “You are in Phase 3.” On the one hand, I had an amazing sense of excitement that I was ten miles in—that the race was almost over. On the other hand, I knew that the hardest days were yet to come.

I am now well into phase 3. I want so badly to quit, to drop out of the race. The pain is unbelievable! I wake up each morning and drop to my knees in prayer, begging God to give me the strength and endurance to get through just one more day. I find myself collapsing in tears daily, curling into a fetal position. I am so over this race! And yet, I know that one day so very soon I will come around the corner to see the finish line.

Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

As I struggle through this phase of the race—as I wait for God to fulfill His promises to me—the days are hard. I often find myself collapsing in tears, struggling just to hold myself together at the most inopportune times.

There are days where I simply feel like quitting, giving up, dropping out of the race. I told a friend today that if I God had revealed the details of this race to me beforehand, I probably would have simply told Him, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’m not interested in running that race.”

The question becomes how do I endure the final mile of this race? How do I hang on to what seems an impossible dream? How do I push through the pain and allow God to continue doing an eternal work in my life?

I must start by focusing on the unseen, eternal purposes. Despite the pain and the fear and the exhaustion, there’s a sense of excitement for what God is doing. He has done so much work in me over the last few years! He has refined me by the fire of trials. He has purified my heart. He has created a compassion and empathy in me that I didn’t know before. Perhaps most importantly, I have come to know my Savior deeply and intimately, in ways I never could have imagined before. If He loves me enough to refine me by these fires, to build this type of enduring faith in me, He must have some pretty amazing plans for my future!

I know that God always has a purpose in the pain. I have offered myself to God as a living sacrifice, asking Him to mold me in whatever ways are necessary. I know this surrender is necessary if I want to eventually move out of phase 3, to find that finish line waiting for me just around the corner. Honestly, I asked for this race. I prayed that God would help my unbelief, that He would use me in ways that are above and beyond all I can ask or imagine. I chose to sign up for this race. Be careful what you pray!

I must focus on who God is. God is faithful. He is unchangeable. He is a Promise Keeper. He is unable to lie. He is the anchor for my soul, the foundation upon which my life is built. He has met my every need. He has walked faithfully beside me. He has guided me into healing and wholeness. He has proven Himself to me throughout my life.

As I look at scriptures to see who God is and I look at His track record in my life, I find that peace comes a little more quickly. I can read that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (Galatians 3:6). I see that Joseph clung to the dream planted in his heart as a young child even as he was sold into slavery in a foreign land. I see that David held onto the promise that he would one day be king, even as he ran for his life from King Saul. Every promise God made was eventually fulfilled. It wasn’t easy. It was a battle. It was a time of refining, testing, trials. But, in each situation, God used the difficulties to prepare for the fulfillment of the promise.

I don’t understand why I am facing the current trials—why it has to hurt so badly in these final days before I see the fulfillment of the promise. However, I know my God. He loves me. He wants only what is best for me. He wants me to trust Him completely. His ways are higher than my ways. He sees all, knows all. He is all powerful. He promises to take everything—even the bad things—and use them for good in my life.

Because that’s who God is, I can trust Him even when it doesn’t make sense.

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). Over and over in the last few weeks, I’ve heard God calling out to me to be still and know that He is God. He has told me repeatedly that He will fight for me, and I only need to be still (Ex 14:14). My heart has been in turmoil as I try to understand why; God is calling me to simply be still, to trust Him, to let Him be God and do what only He can do.

As I take my eyes off the trials—off of the promise—and refocus on the Promise Maker, the Promise Keeper, my heart is stilled. His peace comes back to my heart and my life. I release my fear and trust my heart to the God who specializes in the impossible. I intentionally choose to stop asking God, and instead I choose to start thanking Him—praising Him for the victory He has promised even before I can see it in my humanity.

God is building my faith, and it is not a fun process. But, the author and perfecter of my faith knows what I need to mature me. He knows the circumstances that will bring Him the most glory. He knows what is best for me. I must simply trust Him.

Lord Jesus, I am worn out and weary from this race. I feel as if I can’t take another step. I know the finish line must be just around the corner. Still my heart as I focus on you, on the work you are doing in my life through this time. Help me to remember that you are the God who cannot lie, the One who always keeps His promises. Help me to remember the great cloud of witnesses who are standing along the course, cheering me on, those who have run this race before me and found you always faithful. Give me the strength and endurance to finish this race.

 

 

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Life is a Marathon”

  1. I am so moved by your posts sometimes, as my heart just goes out to you. The rawness of your emotions and how you are able to share something so deeply personal so openly. It brings back memories of being in similar places, and my heart aches for you as I know the pain. Yet, I can also offer you hope, as I have walked through the fires and God has (and is continuing) to always be faithful in all He has promised! I know that when my trials began, God told me he would deliver me through the fire, not from it. I recall a time when the pain was so deep and I just did not know how I could possibly wake up one more morning and do that again for one more day. It was very late at night – I was not sleeping. My kids were done to bed and I just prostrated myself on my bed and called out to God and cried ” How much longer God” How much longer do I have to suffer like this? When will you deliver me God from this heartache?” It was at that time that I felt God so gently tell me “*my name*, I know you by name” It was in that moment that I did not get a specific answer about timing, but that I knew that God knew me by name. He knew my suffering and He cared about it even more then I did. That El Roi – the God who sees, was walking with me. I knew that my time of deliverance was coming. I know that El Roi knows you by name too. That He sees all you are going through, and that He cares even more then you can imagine. That He holds your heart gently in His hands, and will protect it like no other could. It was about that time that I found this scripture Is. 54. I know it was written for Israel but it brought me such hope and comfort when the Lord led me to this beautiful piece – and I thought it may do the same for you:

    “Sing, barren woman,
    you who never bore a child;
    burst into song, shout for joy,
    you who were never in labor;
    because more are the children of the desolate woman
    than of her who has a husband,”
    says the Lord.
    2 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
    stretch your tent curtains wide,
    do not hold back;
    lengthen your cords,
    strengthen your stakes.
    3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
    your descendants will dispossess nations
    and settle in their desolate cities.
    4 “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
    Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
    You will forget the shame of your youth
    and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
    5 For your Maker is your husband—
    the Lord Almighty is his name—
    the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
    he is called the God of all the earth.
    6 The Lord will call you back
    as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
    a wife who married young,
    only to be rejected,” says your God.
    7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you,
    but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
    8 In a surge of anger
    I hid my face from you for a moment,
    but with everlasting kindness
    I will have compassion on you,”
    says the Lord your Redeemer.

    1. Some of what you said is so familiar to me. Just last week, I threw myself on my bed crying out, “How long…” I have seen God do so much in me–and now through me–that I have no doubt that He is using everything for His glory. Yes, I grow weary. Yes, I grow lonely. Yes, I grow frustrated. But, to look at where I am today in comparison to even one year ago amazes me. God has great plans. And, I look forward to the day when my life is completely resurrected! Thank you for your words of encouragement!

  2. Thank you for your your transparency. When you open up about your feelings and emotions, you are freeing some of your readers. What we go through isn’t always about us but it’s for someone else. I am working through these similar things I had to release the “why xyz.” Wanting answers to my whys only lead to additional whys. It is a form of control. When you get an answer to your why then what? When we say we give it all to God, do we really mean it? We give it “all” to him but we’ll keep one or two things to figure out on our own. Giving it all to Him should include your why’s. I am working on this myself but after SEVERAL why this and why that I had to let the control go and truly give my why’s to God. I pray that you will be able to release the why’s to Our Father in Heaven and keep Trusting in His plan for your life. May the peace of God fill your heart until it overflows in ALL areas of your life. Blessings to you.

    1. I truly believe the “whys” will become clear…as time goes on. I am learning to trust God’s heart when I can’t see His hand. I am learning that there is always purpose in the pain. I am learning that He always has my best interest in mind. I am learning that it is much better to trust the One who can see the beginning and the end–and the best way to get there. I am learning to trust His ways, even when they seem confusing and contradictory. I am learning…

  3. This post reminds me so much of a treasured devotional that has deeply encouraged me many dark days….

    STREAMS IN THE DESERT – June 23

    Made Perfect Through Sufferings
    “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

    I kept for nearly a year the flask-shaped cocoon of an emperor moth. It is very peculiar in its construction. A narrow opening is left in the neck of the flask, through which the perfect insect forces its way, so that a forsaken cocoon is as entire as one still tenanted, no rupture of the interlacing fibers having taken place. The great disproportion between the means of egress and the size of the imprisoned insect makes one wonder how the exit is ever accomplished at all — and it never is without great labor and difficulty. It is supposed that the pressure to which the moth’s body is subjected in passing through such a narrow opening is a provision of nature for forcing the juices into the vessels of the wings, these being less developed at the period of emerging from the chrysalis than they are in other insects.

    I happened to witness the first efforts of my prisoned moth to escape from its long confinement. During a whole forenoon, from time to time, I watched it patiently striving and struggling to get out. It never seemed able to get beyond a certain point, and at last my patience was exhausted. Very probably the confining fibers were drier and less elastic than if the cocoon had been left all winter on its native heather, as nature meant it to be. At all events I thought I was wiser and more compassionate than its Maker, and I resolved to give it a helping hand. With the point of my scissors I snipped the confining threads to make the exit just a very little easier, and lo! immediately, and with perfect case, out crawled my moth dragging a huge swollen body and little shriveled wings. In vain I watched to see that marvelous process of expansion in which these silently and swiftly develop before one’s eyes; and as I traced the exquisite spots and markings of divers colors which were all there in miniature, I longed to see these assume their due proportions and the creature to appear in all its perfect beauty, as it is, in truth, one of the loveliest of its kind. But I looked in vain. My false tenderness had proved its ruin. It never was anything but a stunted abortion, crawling painfully through that brief life which it should have spent flying through the air on rainbow wings. I have thought of it often, often, when watching with pitiful eyes those who were struggling with sorrow, suffering, and distress; and I would fain cut short the discipline and give deliverance. Short-sighted man! How know I that one of these pangs or groans could be spared? The far-sighted, perfect love that seeks the perfection of its object does not weakly shrink from present, transient suffering. Our Father’s love is too true to be weak. Because He loves His children, He chastises them that they may be partakers of His holiness. With this glorious end in view, He spares not for their crying. Made perfect through sufferings, as the Elder Brother was, the sons of God are trained up to obedience and brought to glory through much tribulation. –Tract.

    1. Wow. Powerful. Thank you so much for sharing–the second quote from that book today! My life is currently a cross between struggling through each painful day, trying to grasp what God is doing, and the excitement of the future He must be preparing for me! It is so wonderful to have a Father who loves us so much that He is working into us–through whatever means necessary–a faith that will carry us into His presence in eternity! Thank you, and God bless!

  4. Thank you for your powerful words. I am on this journey of trusting my God and letting go. I am so afraid of failing and not being able to provide for my family.However, I know that I have the favor of God and things will be ok.

    1. This journey has been so hard, and yet the blessings continue to roll in! Surrender! Tell Him that even though you don’t want the journey, you will take it if He will make it worth it! It is amazing to look back and see all of the ways that He has cared for my children and me. There are so many ways that my Jehovah Jireh–the God who provides–has stepped in at just the right time with just the right provisions. It has been so much fun to see my faith grow, to see my kids experience the wonder of a God who cares–right down to the smallest details of providing enough money for a basketball uniform. Let go, my friend, and trust Him with every part of your heart!

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