Like all of you, I’ve been running a race my whole life. Before becoming a Christian, I was running the rat race of working to gain more – of anything. I also had many years in my life when alcohol was running my race for me, and it was ugly and dark. In 2013, when I fainted in my kitchen and became paralyzed from the neck down, that was a new and uncertain path in my race. I’d like to share some thoughts with you about my ever fluctuating race over the years.
Run the Race with Perseverance
Hebrews 12: 12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
We each have an individual race to run whether we like it or not. Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
God already knows the decisions we will make, righteous and unrighteous, and the outcome of our lives. In His wisdom, God gives us what we need to grow stronger and to persevere until we take our last breath. It is our choice to live, although imperfectly, godly lives. Our soul and our contentment in life depend upon it.
Run the Race with the True Power
Psalm 19: 7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
I was 25 years old when I was introduced to the Bible. My life was completely out of control. I didn’t want my roommate at the time to know how much I was drinking, so I would sit in the parking lot and drink just enough to not appear drunk when I went into my apartment. I remember asking myself, “what are you doing with your life?” I didn’t have an answer because I didn’t know how to fix it. Back then I knew nothing about God and I knew nothing about twelve-step groups.
The women who reached out to me immediately began teaching me about Jesus and the Bible. After all, Jude 1:23 says, we should save others by snatching them from the fire. My life was definitely in flames. It was an abyss of deep depression, anxiety, desperation, and hopelessness.
After a few Bible studies Psalm 19:7 became evident in my life. Reading the Bible relieved me of the belief that my life couldn’t be fixed. It mitigated much of the depression and anxiety. The Word would come alive when I read it, and it truly refreshed my soul, gave joy to my heart, and light in my eyes. My family was completely amazed by how different I was. I had been such a sad, bitter woman, and now I was filled with joy and hope.
Run the Race with Others
Hebrews 3: 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Proverbs 27: 17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
1 Thessalonians 2: 7 Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.
When I fainted in my kitchen, my whole world changed in an instant. Prior to the injury I had been fiercely independent. I was so proud that I could pay my own way without the assistance of anyone. I had just bought a new car and some new furniture, had a closet full of clothes, and so many “extra” things that I thought would make me happy. The truth was I was very lonely.
While I was still lying in an ICU bed with a ventilator, feeding tube, multiple IVs, and a completely lifeless body, a crew of volunteers was being assembled to pack all of my material things to be stored or given away. My car was sold within a week. I would never be able to go back to my job. All the things I had placed my confidence in, were gone. I felt so lost.
My dearest friends and sisters from my church just kept coming to see me in the nursing facility where I lived. The sisters from church did what the Scriptures teach them to do: they encouraged me daily so I would not believe the lies of the devil (Hebrews 3:13); they sharpened me by reading The Word and praying with me (Proverbs 27:17); and they shared their very lives with me (1 Timothy 2:7) by just being present. I’m so thankful we cultivate those kinds of deep relationships in my church group.
Run the Race with Gratitude
Psalm 42: 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 34: 1 I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. 2 I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 3 Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
Two years ago I was hospitalized for six weeks, and three of those weeks I was in the ICU. I had two acute respiratory failures that almost took my life. After the long hospitalization my nursing facility wouldn’t take me back right away because the doctors in the ICU had prescribed a special respiratory apparatus. I had to go live in another facility in a different town for almost four weeks.
It felt like a nightmare at the time. I was away from the facility that had been my home for the last several years and the caregivers and staff members were like family. The new facility was woefully understaffed and the CNAs would rush through my care in the morning and seem to get agitated when I asked him to put me in my wheelchair. My fear was that I would have to stay permanently.
At some point in my stay there, I thought of Psalm 42. Even when my soul is downcast, I should yet praise Him. At the time it was difficult for me to think of reasons for gratitude, so I simply thanked God for the lessons that I would learn from that difficult experience. As I continued to pray more reasons for gratitude came to mind.
During my stay in the ICU I had shared with one of the nurses about my blog. She read it and immediately shared it with another nurse. They came back to my room and told me how much they enjoyed it. One had tears in her eyes. Sharing the good news is a reason to be filled with gratitude.
Psalm 34:1 says, “let the afflicted hear and rejoice.” When we are afflicted, whether by depression, illness, hospitalization, loss of job, or any other challenge that emerges in our life, it is tempting to feel like the victim. I know I’ve done it many times. Running the race in victimhood will simply make us weak and weary.
Run the Race to Finish the Task
There is only one way to run the race with enough spiritual stamina to cross the finish line.
Isaiah 40: 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.