Faith can be such a challenging virtue at times. During happy, easy times, it is easy to say, “I have faith in God. He is providing so much for me.” During the darker, uncertain, confusing, unclear times in life, Faith is much harder to find. At least, that is true for me. When it’s a difficult time, I might have faith for some areas of my life, but not in others. I might have faith that God does, indeed, love me, God exists, and God will ultimately provide for me (if not here on Earth, He will provide for me in Heaven through salvation). I have faith in God overall…but when it’s a challenging time, my faith feels more shattered when I can’t figure out if He is asking me to do something drastically different from what is happening right now. There are times when everything is going well and I am grateful, but then something drastically changes. A metaphorical door is closed. A metarphorical glass is shattered. Things are never the same again. Sometimes you hope and dream for an answer to a problem and you have great hope that it turns out the way you wish, but when the answer finally comes with such clarity, you are crushed. Crushed when the answer does not come the way you wish. Then you mourn. And it is very difficult, but you have to rely on Faith. Eventually, you can create a new hope and dream and trust in God, but those hopes need a revision, and it can be quite a challenge!
I don’t know if any of this makes sense. Life is messy. Despite trying to pray and having a great desire to do God’s will, it can be a challenge when things don’t go the way you really thought God was asking you to go.
Still, the Holy Spirit asks us to keep our Faith. No matter what. Through good times and in bad times. Keep the faith. We need to “run the good race” and “fight the good fight.” As found in 2 Timothy 4:7 , “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
As a runner, once upon a time (a long time ago! Pre-marriage and pre-kids!), I know what it means to finish a good race. Even in high school, these words from 2 Timothy were memorable because of that connection. This scripture quote was particularly meaningful to me during a time of trial, spiritually when my brother died when I was in high school, and running helped me work through that difficult time. Through God’s great gifts for reasons I do not understand, and with no family history of anyone being an athlete, I was an all-state runner in high school for the 800m. This lead to a scholarship for college, where I was a Division I college athlete in the Southeastern Conference for Track and Cross-Country. I loved running, and I still do, even though I do not currently train. Were you once a runner, too?
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
There was such joy in running like you could run forever. As a runner, another scripture quote that I could relate to was, “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). There was such joy in pushing through really tall hills and running over the crest. It was a fun challenge to run a tough track workout, repeating 200m countless times. There was a great feeling of accomplishment logging in 50 miles in a week, or finishing up an 8 or 12 mile run. There was great victory getting a personal best time in a race. Pushing oneself to the limit was incredibly fitting, even though it was not always comfortable. I think running is like childbirth. You end up blocking out how painful it is, and you make it through by focusing on the positive.
“…those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
Maybe there is something there. Maybe when we have our tougher times spiritually and feel like the Lord is asking us to do something different that we don’t know how to do, we need to keep the end goal in mind. We need to continually choose to have Faith in the Lord. He will make our path more clear….eventually. He still might be asking us to run hill, after hill, after hill, but eventually, we will run and conquer the hill. The Lord will help us during our struggle, even if we cannot “feel” Him with us. He is always there. It might be a challenge to discern if God is asking us to take action, or wait and see. Sometimes we have to make mistakes, but we do so in good Faith that we are trying to do what the Lord asks us in prayer.
Do you remember in the gospel of Mark how Jesus was surrounded by crowds and was in a house. A man who was paralyzed was carried by four men. They had such Faith in Jesus to heal them that they cut a hole in the roof of the house where Jesus was, and lowered the man who was paralyzed. Jesus saw their faith, and healed the paralytic of His sins, giving Him the gift of eternal life. Then He healed the man physically, and he could walk again. How strong was the faith of those four men. How strong was the faith of the paralytic. Time and time again, in the gospels, you can find stories of many people who were incredibly full of Faith, and the Lord healed them.
Our prayers might not always be answered the way we wish. Our life might not turn out how we planned. Our life might not turn out the way we thought God had wanted. Out of love, and out of faith, we can trust that God is always with us. He will help us through this race of life. He will help us persevere, even when we feel like we cannot. Whether we are old and feel broken, or young and feel broken, He is there. Think about how St. Therese of Lisieux when she was dying at a young age, and she had incredible faith. On her deathbed, she said, “I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me.” Her last words were full of faith, hope, and love, “My God, I love you!” St. Therese knew that her Lord was with her. We can keep our faith, even in difficult times. We can have incredible, daring hope and faith in God for our future because He loves us.