I don’t remember the first time I ran. My mom told me that when I was still in diapers in the church nursery, I would spend the whole time running around in circles. The other children would follow me, but eventually stop as their legs grew tired. But I would continue on, as though running was as special and rare as gold. My love for running led me to run for my university’s women’s cross-country and track teams and has continued to teach me many valuable life lessons about God and myself.
This past spring, one of my college classes was canceled, so I headed out for a run by myself. The weather was sunny, but with heavy winds near 40 miles per hour. As I began my run, I thought, This isn’t so bad. I don’t know why I was worried. Then, as I reached the halfway point of my run, I turned around and was surprised by what felt like a brick wall. Suddenly it dawned on me: The first part of my run was easy, because the wind was at my back, pushing me, but now my return would mean facing the wind.
Running into the wind was difficult; I could barely lift my legs, and each step resembled nothing of ease like my church nursery days. Finally, after my exhaustion grew, I stopped. I didn’t walk or jog. I just stood there.
As I gazed into the flat cornfields of Ohio, I began to think about how my run resembled my walk with Christ. The beginning of my run felt easy, like when I am faithfully walking with the Lord and not experiencing hardships. Life seems as it should be — beautiful and easy. Then, when I turned around and felt the harsh winds, I thought about how it resembled times in my life when things are difficult or I feel far from the Lord.
I had two choices as I stood there: to stop or to keep going. Likewise, when it comes to trials, it is tempting to give up or to not trust the Lord. This led me to think what the proper response is when I am “running” through life and it just seems unbearable to keep going. I began to think about how I respond in the midst of hard times in my life.
I can think of numerous times I did not respond to a trial with joy. Rather, I shook my hand at God saying, “How could You do this? Why would You let this happen?” My sinful heart failed to embrace the words of James 1:2-4, which instruct us to consider trials with joy. Joy? Are you kidding me? James writes that trials should be approached with joy, because they produce perseverance in our faith.
Is it possible to be happy all the time, even when bad things happen? I don’t think joy is 24/7 happiness. There are times in our life when tough times cause us to mourn, and the Bible says mourning is acceptable (Matthew 5:4). God comforts His children in the midst of their grief. Rather, I think joy is not having a smile plastered to our face, but finding our inner peace in the Lord. Life is full of circumstances that are unpredictable. True joy is placing our contentment in the Lord, despite our circumstances.
In 2 Samuel 12, the prophet Nathan comes to visit King David. Nathan tells David, because of his unconfessed sins involving Bathsheba and Uriah, that the Lord would take his son’s life. David repented of his sins and mourned the loss of his son before his death. Soon after, his son died, and David responded by worshipping the Lord.
As difficult as it may be, true joy is worshipping the Lord and finding our strength in Him even when life is painful. It is in these moments that the Lord comforts us, even when we feel weak. Our dependence on Him becomes visible through worship.
After taking a break during my run, I decided to continue, praying that the Lord would sustain me through the winds. Through my dependence on Jesus, I found I was able to complete the run with the strength He provided me.
When I am running, there are certain days where it is hard to complete the route, but even on my tired days I find that those runs still build strength and endurance. Likewise, trials in life produce perseverance in our faith. The passage in James finishes with, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
How have you seen the Lord provide you strength in a hard time?