I am out of shape. I am living in the land of the “usta coulds” as we would say here in the south. I usta could run a 10K. I usta could wear my favorite jeans. I usta could say no to that piece of chocolate cake….But I digress. This is not a blog about weight loss, though I could write for days about that particular battle. This is more about what God taught me a few days ago on my attempt to get from the usta coulds to the I still cans…
I like to run. Call me crazy, I already know I am. In reality I think it’s more about the way I feel after a run than the actual process. I have been out of the runner’s world for the last couple of years and am only recently working my way back. The process is slow, painful, and tedious. One morning a few weeks ago, I was at the end of my work-out and was running to the land-mark I had deemed the “halleluiah-I’m-done” spot. I was tired, my breath tight in my ribs. I did what I always do when I have too far to go and just want to quit. I looked down.
You see, in all my time running, whenever I come to a difficult point in my journey I always look down and watch each step my feet take. This is definitely not proper form, but for whatever reason it makes the pain in my muscles seem more bearable. I feel as if I can get to my halleluiah destination more quickly. I know for the most part this is all in my head; nevertheless, when I look down I can make it to the end of my run. When I look up and see how great a distance I have to go or how steep the hill is, I almost always quit. I’ve done this for years, but a few days ago, Jesus had a lesson for me to learn.
Sometimes during the painful trials of life, it just hurts too much to look ahead. Sometimes we can literally survive only one step at a time. People experience trials in life each and every day. While my struggles may seem particularly difficult to some, they only pale in comparison to others. But I don’t believe we are really supposed to compare our struggles to each other. Pain is pain. Tears are tears. Trials are trials. My dear friend Stacee taught me this. Her husband was deployed overseas with the National Guard and she had two small children at home. I was going through a dark time of depression in my life but it seemed a microscopic problem compared to hers. When I finally confided in her, I profusely apologized. Her struggles were far more than my own. I will never forget her response. She said, “Heather, your hurt is still hurt. My situation doesn’t make you hurt any less.”
While it seems as if I have strayed a bit, my point is this. All of us hurt. All of us struggle. And sometimes all of us need to look down. I believe Jesus wants me to do this very thing when I am in the depths of my sadness. While there are times I believe He wants me to see the big picture and to stop worrying about the details, there are other moments when He simply says, “One step at a time, Heather. One step at a time.”
You see, when I am not focused on how far I have to go to get through the struggle, and take each day, hour, moment as it comes, I know I can make it to the end. It is when I look ahead that discouragement is greatest. Ultimately, while looking down during a run makes it bearable, looking at Jesus helps me bear the pain of my struggles. Jesus deeply desires for us to look to him moment by moment. Not just when the steps are difficult but also when they are easy.
If I looked at Jesus a little more often during my marathons of pain, I would see the footsteps of my Jesus right there beside me, ready to hold my hand, whispering, “We’re almost there, my precious. Don’t worry about how far you have to go. I’m right here beside you. You never have to run this race alone.” If I continue looking at Jesus, I know I will finish the race. And that, dear friends, is pure joy.
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1b-3