In case you missed it: Here is the first post in this Series: Switchbacks: Let The Journey Begin
Have you ever run on a treadmill?
I heard that groan.
Most people hate running on a treadmill because
- They feel like a hamster on a wheel
- They get bored
- They detest not going anywhere
- They abhor the monotony.
So they quit.
Unlike running outside, running on the treadmill is much harder, mentally speaking, and thus easier to quit—just turn off the machine, walk away, and head for the shower. Truth is, you don’t have to go far to find reasons to quit—your labored breathing and burning muscles are enough to get the excuses flowing.
But what brings me back time-after-time, day-after-day is:
- I’m making progress.
- Becoming more fit.
- Getting stronger.
- Building endurance.
I agree, running outside is preferable. It’s actually one of my favorite things. Running is how I clear my heart and mind. How I release stress and get re-centered. It’s when I turn off my brain. And it’s also one of my greatest weapons to combat SAD.
Though I don’t go anywhere; though my Fitbit can’t make a map to show where I ran—my efforts are NOT wasted! My body is stronger. My stride is more energy efficient and even. My speed increases with each run. And my endurance…
…becomes more and more steadfast.
As I hiked the switchbacks I was thankful for the months I’d spent on my treadmill. For the strength I’d gained and the endurance I’d built up.
I was up to the task because of the discipline I cultivated in the private.
The first lesson God taught me while hiking the switchbacks was: Though the view didn’t change much my
elevation endurance did.
At first, I thought it was my elevation that changed, but the more I prayed about, dug-in, and studied this lesson, the more I realized it was my endurance that changed. And it was my endurance that made the difference; the increase in elevation was just a side benefit.
Elevation changes go without saying. As you travel up the trail to the top of the mountain, things that were once above you come into your direct line of vision and eventually are below where you stand. When traveling switchbacks, elevation changes are subtle and are best seen when looking back.
But steadfast endurance is a different matter. It’s what allows you to keep moving forward.
It’s something that’s built up over time.
It’s “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity;
to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity”
with a determination
NOT TO GIVE UP.
In hiking and in pursuing our purpose—the calling God has set before us—it’s what enables us to conquer the trail rather than enduring it.
It’s what keeps us going when our muscles burn
and our breathing comes out in gasps.
When we first start out on our journey, anticipation courses through our veins.
Unbridled excitement provides more than enough energy to get us well on our way. And early success confirms we’re on the right path. We’re kinda like Bilbo Baggins, we can’t help but announce to anyone who will listen, “I’m. Going. On. An. Adventure!” as we run in our God-given direction.
Then when the “unknown” whispers fear in our ears, we realize we forgot our handkerchief and a few other creature-comforts and are tempted to turn back.
But we keep going.
Later, we discover there’s real danger ahead. A possibility we could get hurt. Our heart could break. We could break—or even die. And we wonder if we chose the right adventure.
But God’s call echos in our heart.
His Spirit stirs in our soul.
His words of reassurance penetrate our mind.
Doubt disappears, leaving behind the confidence needed to propels us forward.
And we continue to walk with purpose and in our purpose, delighting in God’s way with each step we take (Ps 37:23).
Then life happens.
Things get hard.
We face danger. Disappointment. Heartache. And then heartbreak.
Things come unraveled. Fall apart.
Sorrow moves in.
Our faith gets tested as does our endurance. (By the way, that’s how we grow. I kinda forgot that)
Eventually, we come to a crossroads and wonder, “Did I make a wrong turn? Mishear God’s directions?”
At first, we faced our challenges head-on, repeating: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Gal 6:9) It was our mantra, our marching call.
But test-after-test-after-test depleted our energy. Leaving nothing behind but the weariness we were trying to avoid. Weariness became fatigue. Fatigue became all-out exhaustion. And then we had nothing left for anyone or anything, let alone ourselves or our ___________.
The hardest part?
When we realize the tests we’re taking are an endless stream of re-takes of the same test. We feel like we’re running on a treadmill. Going nowhere. Heading into obscurity. Like we’re hiking switchbacks with that eerie feeling of deja-vu, wondering how to break free of the cycle.
This was my winter in a nutshell.
And, to be honest, an echo of the last few years.
And as I agonized with God over this while on that trail, He informed me He’s helping me build steadfast endurance to better be able to serve Him. To do what He’s called me to do. One trial at a time He’s building my strength. Then he gave me these two verses…
I started to truly understand why He gave the word DILIGENT this year.
Regardless of what comes my way, I need to be diligent in what I’m doing so that He can develop the endurance I will need in the future.
The startling truth is: My race hasn’t even started yet. I’m still training. I need to get stronger. Tougher. More resilient. I need more grit and determination.
Here are a few mistakes I’ve made in this journey. In sharing them I’m hoping to either help you avoid them or encourage you to get back on track. Then I’ll share several verses that encourage me and helped me get back on course.
Mistake #1: Striving with my own energy
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13
When God calls us to do something, it is beyond us! I’ve never heard of an exception. We may have some experience, but the full scope of what He’s got in store for us is beyond us and thus requires us to rely on Him each step of the way.
The problem is, our energy is limited. Flawed. Subjected to our sin. But Christ’s energy is perfect. Never ending. Pure.
Beloved, our God is a God of endurance and encouragement. (Ro 15:5).
He is our sustainer and greatest cheerleader. (1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16-17; Heb 1:3)
Through His Spirit, He gives us the same power that raised Jesus from the dead to accomplish what He’s called us to do. (Eph 1:19-21) We need to submit and ask His Spirit to fill us daily.
Mistake #2: Allowing myself to get weighed down
There are many things that weighed me down.
- Past failures
- Overloaded schedule (not seeking God’s guidance with how to best use my time)
- Keeping life in balance
- Not reaching goals by my deadlines (pride)
I harbored those things. Like barnacles on a ship, these sins increased in number until they weighed me down making it difficult to keep my head above the water. They destroyed my confidence and efficiency. My creativity and drive.
Eventually, I gave up and began to sink.
Yes, I gave them over to God time and again, but I always took them back. I battled doubt every day, and still do and am actively working on it. But with that open door, Satan was able to remind me of my past failures and mistakes which he used to feed my insecurity. This in turn, incited me to feed my pride. You know, the “I got this. I’m fine. This won’t take me down. I’m bigger than this. I can handle this” pride? Yeah, about that…
What I should have done was
- Claim God’s Truth and stand securely in His promises
- Used His strength to slam that door in Satan’s face and tell him to go back to hell where he belongs
- Called upon the discipline of prayer and Bible study I cultivated in private and doubled-down
- Continued to use that discipline to build my endurance
- Brought in prayer warriors to help me stand guard
Beloved, if you’re traveling switchbacks, ask God the hard questions. Ask Him over and over again until you get your answer. God gives us wisdom (Prov 2:6) all we have to do is ask (James 1:5) and be willing to hear what He has to say (Prov 18:15). Learn from His discipline so you can gain steadfast endurance.
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
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