There wasn't anything particularly thrilling about today's workout. Sundays are my day off from running, so I hit the bike this afternoon for 10 easy miles. The biggest thing to talk about on today's ride is the sunshine.
That's right! The sun was shining while I was riding today. It's something I haven't seen in I don't know how long. Mainly because my weekday runs are before daylight, but also because so many have been in the rain recently.
The temperature was a crisp 40 or so degrees, but still made for a nice, enjoyable ride today.
Okay, now back to the continuation of the previous post...
Part II -- The Message
As with all my posts throughout this Janathon challenge, I wanted to incorporate a spiritual message, revealed to me through the workout I'm describing. Yesterday's storm coupled with a Saturday long run offered an outstanding opportunity to draw parallels between life and running.
In our walk through life, all of us pass through storms. When we encounter these tempests, we always have a choice about how we'll respond.
We can choose to hunker down. Find a place that appears safe, hide there, and try to wait until the storm passes. We can try to find a detour. Look for a way around the foul weather that will still get us through to our destination, but without the danger or discomfort of battling the elements. Or, we can continue on. Push right through the storm, driving right into the heart of that which seeks to destroy or dissuade us.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." -- John 16:33
Yesterday I knew the rains were coming. I could have chosen not to get out, not to run. I could have chosen to hunker down and hide from the weather I knew was coming. But I had the miles to do. If I'm really called to run marathons, like I believe I am, if it's the Lord's will that I hit the roads and carry His message along with Amanda's story, I have to be in shape. So, regardless of the weather, I've got to get out there and train.
The words of Jesus, his very own words in the verse above, tell us we'll all have trouble. We'll all have to pass through storms in life. Trouble is going to find us, no matter where we are. If we find a way to avoid a storm today, we'll be caught in another eventually. It doesn't matter how good you are or how carefully you plan, you will find yourself in the middle of a storm at some point.
It's important to point out that I'm not saying you should seek out the storms, try to find trouble before it finds you. If you're safe and sound in the house, and God's not calling you to do something, when a storm blows up, I'm not saying you should tempt fate and climb on top of your house holding a metal pole.
God doesn't call us to go and hunt trouble, but I don't believe hiding from life's storms because we're afraid to answer His call in the face of perceived danger is the way He wants us to deal with them either.
"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. -- Psalm 23:4
This is from the New International Version of the Bible, but I prefer the King James Version's, "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death." The darkest valley just doesn't quite evoke the same sense of intensity. Both verses mean exactly the same thing, we are walking through an evil world, with evil all around us, on all sides.
This Psalm doesn't say we have the option to go around the valley, find a more pleasant path to take, a route free of trouble and tears. No. It says we will walk through the "darkest valley," the "valley of the shadow of death." We CANNOT avoid the trouble, the evil, the death, the storms.
The reason we want to avoid the evil, find a way around the storms, is usually fear...fear of what may happen to us as the rains fall, the thunder cracks, and the lightening flashes. Fear.
But the Psalmist says we don't have to fear. "I will fear no evil." We don't have to fear because Jesus is walking through that valley with us, and He has promised us He will get us through to the other side. Nothing in that valley, neither pain nor physical death, can harm us if we have accepted Jesus as our personal Savior. We're promised eternal life on the other side of that valley, and there is no evil that can take that away.
Yes! We will encounter storms in life, and we won't always be able to get around them.
" 23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm." -- Matthew 8:23-26
Perhaps this famous story from the Gospel of Matthew tells it all...we don't have to be afraid to push through the storm. We don't have to hide and hunker down. We don't have to look for a way around. We can push ahead, following the will of God, right into the heart of any storm!
That's key...if you're following Jesus and you are led into a storm, there's no reason to be afraid. If you're doing His will, you are protected and safe. When the wind is whipping, when the rain is coming down so fast it seems you'll surely drown, when the thunder and lightening are crashing and flashing furiously all around, Jesus is there with you, protecting you and able to calm all the fury with a wave of His hand.
We don't have to be afraid when we're doing God's will! We don't have to worry when we're following Jesus!
" 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." -- James 1:2-3
For me it was easy to run off into the storm yesterday. I was having fun running in the rain. But it turned out a pretty good parallel to the storms of life.
These are a lot tougher to face than a little wind and water, even than thunder and lightening. The odds of being struck by lightening are infinitesimally small. Running through a rainstorm isn't the same as the real pain, mental and emotional and physical, that comes with the trials of life.
It's hard to "consider it pure joy" to drive through those storms. Still, God promises if we face them, push through them, we'll become stronger for it. The old saying, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," is exactly what this verse is saying. If we don't let the storm beat us down, we'll come out stronger and better equipped to handle the next one.
"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." -- James 1:12
And when we've "stood the test," our faith is what becomes stronger. The very faith that not only guarantees our salvation, the promise of eternal life with Jesus in Heaven, grows when we survive the storms of life. But not only does our faith grow, it encourages others as we become an example they wish to follow.
So when life throws you into a tempest, when you're thrashing about trying to keep your head above the water, don't find a place to hide and hunker down. Don't search for a way around it that takes you outside God's will. Instead, lean on your faith in Jesus and plunge headlong into the storm, knowing He will be there beside you.
Fear no evil in the valley of the shadow of death, in that darkest valley, because Jesus will walk beside you through the whole thing, all the way out to the other side.
Run through the storm and you'll reach the other side, tested and stronger for it. And on the other side, you'll get that crown of life, an eternity spent in Heaven with Jesus Christ.
If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.