We often hear about our lives on earth being compared to running a race. I'm not a runner, but I envision the dramatic finish when I picture a race. Radiantly soaring over the finish line, arms raised in victory, breaking through the finish line tape. I don't think about the blood, sweat, and tears that went into gaining that victory. Races are hard. Life is hard, so how do we cross the finish line in the race of our life victoriously?
Scripture encourages us to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." Hebrews 12:1
This verse tells us that a race is marked out specifically for each of us. A race that only we can run, with a purpose and intention for our lives. It helps me to remember that God has a plan and purpose for my life. I'm not to run aimlessly, managed by my circumstances.
Hebrews 12 also reminds us to keep our eyes up and look to Jesus as our focus. That's hard sometimes because it is so easy to become distracted by the craziness around us.
What causes us to allow our focus? Some of it may be wounds from our past, the build-up of so many hard years and circumstances. Our souls are weary and tired from the difficult sections of the race we've already run.
Then there are our present struggles. Just the fight to pay the bills, keep the kids fed, and worry about a family member who has lost their way. Or even a health crisis that causes every day to feel like a burden.
Fear of the future can also cause us to stumble and lose focus. What will happen to our kids and grandkids? Will the economy stabilize, or will we go into a global recession? So many questions of the unknown loom over us and threaten to render us useless in our race.
All of these situations are real, but when the circumstances are our focus, then fear can take root. Fear causes us to look down. We are more apt to fall, lose our way, and become discouraged when we look down. When my eyes are downcast, I trust in my abilities to handle any obstacles I encounter instead of relying on the Lord for my help and strength.
I went through a challenging section of my race a few years back. Whenever I felt like I was progressing in my race, I would get hit out of the blue with something that would blindside me and knock me down. Our business struggled financially, and we were sliding deeper into debt daily. To top it off, I had a significant relationship fracture that took me by surprise. I still had wounds from losing our daughter Nicole in an accident, and my fragile heart felt like it couldn't or shouldn't have to experience any more pain. My heart was broken, and I was discouraged. My eyes were focused on my painful circumstances, feeling powerless to lift my gaze up to the Lord. I was trying to fix everything on my own, unsuccessfully relying on myself to get back in the race. One of the amazing things about Jesus is that He pursues us, and when we are lost, He comes after us. He did that for me. He reached down and tilted my face to His. He helped me up and set my feet on solid ground. He didn't change my circumstances, but He guided me through and did that for me time after time until the painful season passed.
I still need Jesus daily, even when it's not a struggle. To be victorious, I must lift my gaze above my circumstances - the pain of the past, the pressure of the present, or the scary what-ifs of the future- and focus on Jesus.
My husband Larry recently posted on Facebook about his motivation for this new year. He wrote that he wanted to be "To be fully engaged in this life… Using all the gifts, talent, and skill I've been given… but with my eyes "up," and looking "ahead" over and past the daunting tomorrow's and the scary what if's—looking straight to Jesus!"
So, so good!
Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.
There will be times when fatigue overwhelms us, and we will become disoriented and fall. That's okay; instead of being defeated and lying down in the mud, we can lift our eyes to Jesus for help. He will scoop us up and out of the mire, binding our wounds and soothing our pain, giving us the strength to continue our race.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
I know your soul is tired, especially if you are facing a challenging section of your race ahead. You may want to give up, but please don't give up. You can do this: one step forward, eyes up. Every step brings you closer to the victorious finish.
When we cross the finish line at the end of our race, no doubt bloody, beat up, and scarred, we will be radiant because our eyes were fixed on Him. His eyes locked on each of us, strengthening and guiding every step.