Enduring the World

When Faith Wavers And Trust Wanes

Will Ryan / 7.22.22

Like most people, I’m not immune from feeling the pressure to be perfect in this world. For me it often manifests in body image stuff. I’m prone to compare myself to others, even those in superhero movies, and find my lack of a six pack distressing. Whether it’s because of this insecurity or because of my love of sports, I’ve always been rather familiar with the inside of a gym.

At one point early on in my adult life, I was even pretty faithful about going after joining a HIIT class with an emphasis on weight training. It was not quite Cross-Fit, but it was still pretty intense. As I endured the training, I began to see results.

But about a year after I started, I had a heart episode that sent me to my doctor. He advised me to change my exercise regimen to focus more on endurance activities: running, biking, swimming, etc. He told me those would help with my blood pressure and all-around heart health. So I worked on shifting my idea of endurance away from throwing weights around to pounding out the miles.

I bought a pair of running shoes, found a race to sign up for, and got to training. Between when I first started and now, I had some modest accomplishments. I ran a half-marathon (where I beat my brother and dad, take that!). I went to the boonies of Iowa (I’m talking gravel roads) during March to win a trail race where the path was frozen over in parts. And maybe more importantly, I didn’t have another heart episode. I became a reluctant runner.

I wouldn’t say I LIKED running, but I did like the sense of accomplishment when I was done. I liked achieving a goal. I liked enduring the difficulty of the run.

The endurance training worked … until I got hurt.

Age caught up with me (and notoriously weak ankles susceptible to rolling and turning over) and I developed tendonitis in my foot. I took a break from training for a week in the hopes it would get better, but as soon as I stepped back out on the road it was apparent something was wrong. It got so bad that I was prescribed a walking boot at one point. I had to stop running for a long time and also do physical therapy.

If I’m going to be completely honest with you, my foot is pretty much healed but I haven’t run in over six months. While I never considered myself a “runner” per se, more like someone who runs, I can’t claim either anymore. I miss it, but not enough to start again. I couldn’t endure the injury.

It’s also why I resonated with Paul’s prayer for the church in Colossae. He writes to the Colossians and tells them he’s been praying for them. It was a three-fold prayer focused on their living out their faith. The first petition was for them to do good work and grow in the knowledge of God. The third was for them to express joy and thanksgiving.

Those sound good; I definitely could use them, but it was the second petition that spoke to me. Paul prayed they would be strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience (Col 1:11). Enduring everything and having patience — I definitely could benefit from more endurance and patience, and not just with running or the gym.

Whether it’s because the world out there seems to be hurtling ever closer to an apocalypse or something else more internal, there are times when my endurance with the whole thing is shrinking ever quicker. Revelation calls it the great ordeal, hardship, or tribulation, depending on your translation, but I call it living in the year 2022.

It could be the news about the newest heat wave over Europe, a COVID outbreak at my church, parade attendees scattering for their lives at the sound of gunfire instead of fireworks, or hearing prayer request after prayer request for a child’s cancer diagnosis – but the weight keeps piling on and on.

Then there are those internal things: restlessness at living in the same place longer than anywhere else in my adult life, worries that my preaching (and not their vacations) is the reason worship attendance sagged during summer, frustrations at pictures of friends having another kid. Issues and anxiety stretch on for miles and it seems more than an ordeal, more than I can endure.

Faith wavers, trust wanes, prayer practices falter, and worship becomes rote. It certainly doesn’t want to make me go for a run!

The underlying assumption Paul makes is that the life of faith will include things you have to endure and things that will make you have patience. It isn’t all sunshine and roses. There will be trials, temptations, and frustrations. Paul knows this to be true because it’s manifested in his life: shipwrecks, public floggings, even imprisonment. In fact, he’s writing this letter while he wastes away in his cell.

If this were so for the chief apostle to the gentiles (which includes you and me), why would we expect anything less? I mean, I think Paul understood following in the footsteps of Jesus led not to Palatine Hill, but to Calvary.

I suppose that’s why Paul makes sure the Colossians remembered God’s good news: He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. He set us free through the Son and forgave our sins (Col 1:13-14). Paul knew that the thing that was going to give them endurance and patience wasn’t their strength, resolve, physical therapy, or even a good training regimen. It was and is Jesus, the work He has done on their behalves and our behalves — dying and rising that we might be forgiven and free.

This endurance Paul prayed for the Colossians (and I also think us, too) to have is none other than the endurance Jesus himself showed. In Hebrews, we’re told to run the race ahead of us with endurance by fixing our eyes on the One who endured the cross, cast aside its shame, and is now lounging at God’s right hand. Part of the righteousness we’re given by Jesus’s work is the endurance he showed on the cross.

That’s almost good enough to get me out of my slippers and into a pair of runners right now, not caring about what I look like.

COMMENTS


2 responses to “Enduring the World”

  1. Don Evans says:

    Encouraging words to help in every day life.

  2. Cheryl Nolte says:

    Reminds me of the song, “Cast Your Eyes Upon Jesus”. Great writing, seriously thought-provoking.

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