It was Sunday. The winter morning air was slowly turning to spring with a crisp 40- degree start to the day. It had been a while since I enjoyed a jog outside because the winter has been long. But a beautiful Sunday morning like that, I just couldn’t help myself.
I have never been an avid runner in the sense of long distance or training for a competition. In 7th grade I ran the mile in a track meet and came in second. To last. The whole 2 races I’ve participated in since then were Race for the Cure (In my mind it was “Walk for the Cure”) and Expedition Everest Challenge at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. The magic of Disney made this race fun and fairly easy. It felt more like frolicking through the park and enjoying just being at Disney than actually running a race.
Running has been at times a way for me to connect with people but mostly an excellent stress reliever. When I cannot get out of my head I just start running. No doubt, my favorite place to run is along the ocean. On the other hand, the contrast of a cold, crisp, early morning run is pretty high on the list, too. There is beauty in varying environments.
As I checked my watch this Sunday morning, surprised by the time, a thought struck me: pushing past our limit is usually painful. My friend Jess runs marathons. She ran the Boston Marathon, twice, once being while she was pregnant. She is the most physically fit person I know. A run less than 30 to 45 minutes is merely a warm up for her. I also know women who are beginning to exercise for the first time. A 30-minute run may be a goal for months down the road but would not be feasible now. Whether you are a novice runner or like my friend Jess, everyone hits a point where the run is hard. That point can even vary depending on the day.
I have found some of my most rewarding runs to be when I push past what I thought to be my breaking point. Some days that was literally on minute 3. Other times it was on minute 40. That breaking point is different for everyone on a fitness journey. No matter where you fall on the scale, pushing beyond your limit can be exhausting and seem flat impossible.
There are many areas of life that this concept can be applied. The physical lesson is obvious: if you want to continue to increase your level of fitness you must keep going farther than you think you can. That not only takes physical endurance but mental perseverance as well. The same truth applies to our spiritual health: moving forward is vital. Do you ever feel like you are going to break, that you cannot take one more hardship? Are you dealing with something right now that feels like it just might kill you?
The rewarding part I have found is that more times than not, if I can push past those minutes in running when I want to quit it actually gets easier. I get into a rhythm or focus my mind on something else, and it’s not so bad. There is high that comes from knowing you kept going when everything in you wanted to stop.
Take football for example. The Red Zone is arguably the most difficult 10 yards to break through on the field. The intensity is high and much is at stake. But those who can persevere through those last 10 yards will experience great relief and great reward. Imagine if the quarterback drove the offense 85 yards down the field to the 10-yard line and walked off the field. What? We cannot even conceive how ridiculous that would be! And why? Because we know what is waiting on the other side of the goal line. What good would it be to put in all that effort and quit just because it’s hard or because you are tired?
Whether physically, mentally, or spiritually, pushing past your breaking point can seem impossible. In Colossians, Paul tells us how to do this, by “struggling with all his energy” (Colossians 1:29). Let that sink in. Wresting with all the power that Christ has. That same power is in us. Whoa.
Peter talks about this a little differently, encouraging us to be self controlled and alert, resisting Satan and standing firm in the faith (1 Peter 5:8-9). And James tells us to “resist the devil, and he will flee” (James 4:7).
But we have to keep fighting. We have to keep putting one step in front of the other, especially during the moments we are tempted to quit.
Resisting the devil takes great patience and endurance. There is no indication of how long this will take, and some battles take years of fighting. The freedom that comes from pushing past what we think is our breaking point is Satan fleeing. Notice I said what we think is our breaking point. Pressing on when everything in you wants to quit is impossible without the power of God.
Just like pushing past the pain during a run or pushing through the defensive line to score a touchdown, the same principle applies: we must press on longer than we think possible. We must struggle with all his might, standing firm in the faith, resisting Satan, and relishing in the freedom that comes from persevering.
I cannot talk about running without one final reference to Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
Starting the race is important, yes. But more importantly is enduring past your so called “breaking point” and finishing the race. The next time you are running, physically or spiritually, keep going. When everything in your screams that it is time to quit, keep moving forward. You may be just seconds away from victory.
Struggling with all his energy…