“This is harder than I thought, harder than I thought it’d be,
Harder than I thought, taking every part of me….
This is what love feels like”
Over the summer, I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort to spend a certain amount of time each day riding my exercise bike. It’s not that I’m on a health kick or trying to lose weight, I just feel like it’s the right thing to do at my age and it helps me deal with the stress of running three branches of a ministry out of our house.
Most days, it works like a dream!
If you visit my house in the late afternoon (usually right before I would normally take a break from work to make dinner) there’s a very good chance that you could catch me in my laundry room with headsets in my ears (blasting at full volume the very best in either Christian or clean classic rock music) locked in my own little world listening to the music while my legs pedal away on the bike. Whether it’s the music or the exercise (or the combination of both), I can feel the stress leaving my mind as I ride.
Then just about the time that I feel like, “Wow, this has been a great break, it must be time to finish”, I look down to see that the timer says I still have 5 more minutes to go.
I don’t know about you, but for me, these last 5 minutes are the hardest.
My legs hurt, I’m sweating and gross. Usually by this time my i-phone that’s providing the music is running out of battery, and I’m struggling to fight the temptation to just quit, walk away, and say, “Good enough for today.”
Still, I struggle on….this time minute by minute, watching the clock, pushing through the strain in my legs. Yep, for me, the last 5 minutes is always the hardest. But if you want to meet your goal…you keep moving forward.
Sometimes life is a lot like riding an exercise bike.
You start off in a new adventure---a new job, a new relationship, finding a new depth to your calling---and it’s all wonderful and exciting. The adrenaline’s pumping, the possibilities seem endless, and everything is exciting and fresh.
Then as you keep moving forward the “honeymoon phase” starts to wear off.
Things start to get harder; yet oddly, more mundane.
There’s less excitement and more just plain work.
Move forward a little further and you wonder, “What was I ever excited about at all? This is just plain hard---way harder than I ever thought it would be.” As Toby Mac’s new song (featuring D.C. Talk, the all-time greatest Christian rock band of all time) says, “It’s taking every part of me, stretching me out to the end of my limits.”
The truth is that there are days when relationships (whether they be romantic, family, co-worker, or church relationships) just stink.
There are times when following your God-given calling is harder and more painful than you ever imagined.
Sometimes loving people who aren’t treating themselves or anyone else—especially you or the ones you love---right seems impossible.
Standing up for what’s right when the whole crowd is heading toward what’s wrong is hard and lonely.
Raising a small child, caring for an elderly parent, or even fighting your way through your own health issues is can be tremendously difficult.
Reality is that sometimes life is just unbelievable hard, and after we’ve run and run and tried and tried, given it all we have just be asked for more, because we are human, sometimes we just want to give up. I’ve been there many times.
The truth is…I’ve been there just recently.
I tried and I tried. I loved. I forgave. I turned the other cheek, just to have it slapped again, before finally turning to God and saying, “I don’t think I can do this anymore. This is harder than I ever thought it would be, I just want to quit.”
Of course, I was torn. As much as I wanted to walk away, I knew that I couldn’t. I knew that God had called me to this situation and loving Him meant hanging in there….pushing through the pain and continue moving forward. Still, the human part of me was screaming, “BUT THIS HURTS!!!!”
That’s when the Holy Spirit reminded me of my exercise routine. Clearly and tenderly He helped me recall how difficult the last few minutes of exercise are---how tempting it is to quit when it really starts to be difficult. Still, you keep moving forward.
That’s how it is with life. Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you quit. You keep going forward and pray for strength to run the race you’re given.
My response was to pray, “Please give me the strength to finish the race---help me to finish what You called me to start.”
Just then Scriptures began to go through my mind:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
(2 Corinthians 9:24-27)
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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Are there times in life when running the race God has called you to is going to be “way harder than you thought?”
Is the temptation there to walk away and just say, “I did my best---I’m done?”
But is that what God wants you to do?
(That’s a tougher question)
Even though He knows it’s hard, does He want you to persevere, to keep moving forward, to keep fighting for the one you love or simply to follow the calling of the Jesus, the Ultimate One you love?
Is God asking you to just toughen up, keep running your race with all you’ve got, and see it through to victory?
I’ll be honest and say that this is exactly what God is calling me to do.
I’ll also be honest and admit that I’m not loving the choice.
However, I love Jesus. I love Him enough to do what He wants me to do no matter how hard it is. That’s why I keep running the race. That’s why I keep fighting the fight. That’s why I believe that no matter how hard it is, God has a plan and a purpose and He will work everything (even this thing that is causing me so much pain right now) out for my good.
So I run forward. I pray that God will help me to complete each mile with dignity and grace, being the runner He has called me to be. Leaning on Him for strength, I believe I can finish the course.
But this is my choice. What about you?
Is your race “harder than you thought?”
Are you tempted to quit and walk away rather than finish the race?
Is the Holy Spirit calling you to continue the race?
What will you choose?
I hope this article reminds you that you are not alone. We all go through these times. Life is hard, and we all have trials that seem tougher than we are.
We all have days that we want to quit and give up. Yet through the Holy Spirit living inside of us, we ALL have the ability to persevere and finish the race.
I pray that my reading my story will inspire you to press forward. Dig deeper into God and allow Him to give you the strength to keep moving forward.
Don’t give up.
Finish your race.
Cross your finish line victorious.
Choose today that you’re in this race until the end.
In case you need some extra inspiration, here’s the song that helped inspire me to go one more round in my own situation: