The last 3 to 4 years have presented Luz and me with challenges that have not been easily detected by visual observation but that tested us emotionally to the core. There are a variety of ways one might choose to deal with such tests. While the Lord provided us with much strength and determination to overcome, I found that I did not have enough energy emotionally to manage all areas of my life well. I found that slowly and steadily my physical fitness began to decline until I found myself in a state of being that was not at all satisfactory. If I was going to overcome, I had to make a few decisions.
I had to first determine to get back in the saddle and endure what was certain to be a rough ride back to fitness. I have generally been a lifelong practitioner of physical fitness with a few unauthorized hiatuses along the way. This last hiatus had been very costly. I began my journey back late last year after Luz and I celebrated our 25th Vow renewal. Everything about the return was painful and unpleasant. By the time 3 months had passed and I had my annual physical, I had barely reached the shape I had been in a year before, which was still very much characterized by being out of shape. I took that as a significant warning bell that could not be ignored. So, I pressed on. Now after another 3 months, I can feel and see progress. Not the progress of an infomercial with drastic, “no sweat” before and after results, but real progress based on consistent, faithful, hanging in there commitment to a process. It’s not been a particularly exciting, interesting or pleasant process. It has been sometimes hard, mundane and taxing. Yet, so many important facets of life are made up of elements which are hard, mundane and taxing, yet beneficial and fruitful. I don’t look or feel like a 20 year-old but feel pretty good for a fellow in his early 50’s.
Why am I sharing this? Because I have been encouraged and inspired by others who share their journeys and struggles yet hang tough and exude joy and confidence all along their challenging journeys. They are the kind of folks who live by the axiom, “You may fall down 1000 times, just make sure to get up 1001!” I also share because I rejoice in having grasped a hold of the grace of God which doesn’t count my failings against me, but endows me with a renewed spirit that is extended to me by faith, giving me hope, endurance and the power to press on. Romans 5:1-5 says,
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
How does this apply to the situation I am sharing? Because of the benefits of faith, I can stop worrying about my challenges but rather enjoy God’s peace. That peace allows me to truly grasp the reality of faith, which brings joy and hope even to the point of rejoicing even if I am suffering knowing my character is being developed and from that process of maturity, hope and love overflow as powerful by products of God’s work in me. Therefore, when challenges seem to overwhelm, I don’t need to drop out, I can instead, regroup, refocus and press on in faith with joy and peace of mind in the midst of life’s struggles and storms.
It is my hope that if you find yourself in a personal struggle that has you feeling whipped and knocked out of the race, you’ll bet back up, dust yourself off and begin your comeback with resolve and determination, knowing that God has not abandoned you, but rather has given you all you need to start afresh and press on with courage, dignity and victory. The battle will be long, and the progress may be slow but as we enter holy week, I ask you to remember this encouraging word from Hebrews 12,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
Hang tough and press on, knowing that Jesus endured and prevailed for our benefit. The fruit of His ultimate victory continues to manifest itself wonderfully as people of faith continue to endure and overcome, having embraced the love and hope that comes through faith in Him! I am continuing to learn this lesson and hope that my learning serves as an encouragement to others among you who struggle too! Keep getting up. Keep pressing on!
Grace, mercy and peace to you all in this most holy season!
Your friend and brother,