Several years ago I trained for a marathon. The first time I ran six miles I remember panting and thinking, “How will I ever run 26?” I was spent after my first long day. My legs ached. An hour of running seemed so long.
But I kept running.
I wasn’t very fast. My body creaked and cracked. And I moaned and groaned through the opening weeks.
But I kept running.
I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but at some point, the training started to be fun. The very thing I had dreaded I started to anticipate with alacrity. I had more energy. My legs were stronger. I felt good. I felt better for the effort. I honestly felt more alive. What had happened? How did running go from draining to fueling?
I had discovered the benefits of endurance.
Endurance is the strength of mind, body and spirit to keep going. How do you develop this ability to keep going? Well, surprisingly, you develop this ability when you decide to keep going. Yes. The way to develop endurance is to endure. Not very exciting, right? But it’s a critical point of encouragement.
This realization means that there is hope in the fact that you’re still going right now. There’s hope in the midst of busyness and stress, suffering and tiredness. If you can just keep going, you will keep going. And eventually, you will find you have the strength to keep going. You will have endurance.
But this process is more than just a physical or psychological phenomenon. Endurance is a God-backed, Spirit-packed process designed for Christians. Paul writes:
“[W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Suffering is what Paul calls the first part of training. The pain. The questions. The aches and dark nights. But through the power of God, these sufferings become soil for growth, and the first green sprig is endurance, the ability to keep going. This ability is not for the purpose of keeping you on a treadmill. As you keep going, you are going somewhere. You are headed towards character. Grit. Deeper faith. Resilience. Buoyancy. And all of this leads to hope. And no one can steal hope from you once you’ve got it good.
Don’t Stop Now
As we begin a new year, I am encouraged by this reminder.
Right now, life seems a little crazy. School has resumed for our children. Soccer practices are just around the corner. Ministry programs and events have started up. We are juggling as many balls as ever. I am sure your life is no different. But I strengthen myself when I remember that God is faithful to take this stress and make me better for it. Remembering that, I keep going. It will get better. I will get better. He will get bigger. God will do great things for me and you. He’s promised it!
So, don’t stop now! Keep going!