A runner sets off down the sidewalk. One mile down. Two. Now three. As the fourth mile approaches, the runner feels her breath start to become heavy. Her lungs struggle to keep up. Her muscles begin to burn. Her knees begin to wobble. "Just a bit longer," she says to herself as she pushes herself forward.
The Christian life can often feel like this for the believer. When we first experience the saving work of Christ in our life, we have a bolt of energy. We feel on fire for God as we blaze through the race set before us. But as time goes on and life gets hard, the race doesn't feel as easy to run as it did before. Fire is traded for feebleness as we struggle to keep moving forward.
As we navigate our life, it can sometimes feel difficult to find the endurance to keep running. We live in between the tension of the already and the not yet–awaiting the hope of heaven while experiencing the reality of the here and now. Like a runner who feels herself growing tired, the heaviness of life often causes us to become weary in our walk, unsure of how we can keep going.
Weariness in the Christian race is a reality for all believers. Sometimes it may feel like we are a lone runner traveling toward eternity, but the good news of the gospel declares that all believers are running the same race together. Because we are all in the same race, we each experience times of weariness. Other Christians may seem like they are running more strongly, but, like you, they are not immune from experiencing fatigue. Instead of allowing our weariness to cause us to forfeit the race, we need to learn how to keep going even when it seems impossible.
Remember why you are running.
If you've ever signed yourself up for a race or attempted to become a runner, you know what it's like to get discouraged if you forget the purpose of your exercise. When the race feels weary, it's easy to lose sight of what we're working toward in the first place. Not only that, when we experience deep pain and suffering along the way, we can find ourselves asking if the running is even worth it. As believers, we are not without a goal at the end of this life. Those who trust in Jesus are not left running, wondering what's at the end of the finish line. The apostle Paul speaks of this in Philippians when he says, "Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus" (CSB). This goal is eternity with Christ, promised to us by the work of salvation in our lives. Paul knew that because he belonged to Christ, he had the promise of eternal rest in view as he ran. This reality kept him running, and it should be what causes us to keep running as well. When we remind ourselves that our race is not in vain, we will push ourselves forward even if it's painful.
Fix your eyes on the prize.
In Hebrews 12:2, Paul writes that endurance is found by "keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith." There is nothing that slows down a runner more than when she takes her eyes off the finish line. We fall into discouragement when we look behind us or around us. Dwelling on the circumstances of the past and present will only add additional weight to our weariness. This is why Paul writes in Hebrews 12:1, "let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us." If we take our eyes off Jesus and fix them on the things of this world, our weariness will only grow.
Endurance is found by looking to the One who modeled endurance for us. Paul continues in Hebrews 12:2-3, "For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won't grow weary and give up." As we fix our eyes on Jesus, we are fueled with the same endurance He had in going to the cross for us. Jesus's own endurance was not without difficulty. He suffered immense pain and persecution for our sake. But Paul writes that Jesus did this with joy as He looked toward what would be achieved by His work of endurance–our salvation. We emulate not only Christ's endurance but His joy as we keep running. Weariness in the race can still be met with joy.
Lean into God's strength.
When the race feels too weary to run, we can find rest in the strength of the Lord. We cannot run the race set before us in our own earthly strength. As believers, we have received the Holy Spirit who keeps us moving even when it is hard. When we feel like we can't take another step, it is the power of God that carries us forward. Unlike us, God's strength does not run out. Isaiah 40:28 writes, "The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never becomes faint or weary." But God does not keep this strength to Himself. Isaiah 40:29 continues, "He gives strength to the faint and strengthens the powerless." God does not take a hands-off approach when it comes to our weariness. He provides the endurance we need by the means of His own strength. It is through Him that we can strengthen our tired hands and weakened knees (Hebrews 12:12).
The race can still be run, even if you are weary. God has given us a hope to look toward, Jesus to motivate us, and the Spirit's strength to fuel us. As we move forward, let us rest in the truth that "those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).