Heartbreak and Faith Made Me a Better Runner
I was in a relationship for eight years, and the year we decided to get engaged, God told me he wasn’t the one. Actually, God had been telling me for a while, but obviously, I did not listen. Who wants their whole world turned upside down? Don’t we all like control and comfort? This alteration not only brought me closer to God, it also completely transformed my running. Until this point, I was an ‘if I feel like it’ runner. I enjoyed it but lacked the determination and discipline to be any good.
The blessing in the break up was that it turned me into the healthiest and fittest version of myself. I ran three and a half marathons that year and reduced my timing by 25 minutes from the previous year. Through this difficult time, the Lord taught me to lean on Him for everything. My relationship with God graduated from a church and prayer thing to a lifestyle. God can transform every part of our lives if we follow Him.
What God has planned for people who love Him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds! -1 Corinithians 2:9 (CEV)
Using my running as the instruction manual, here’s what God taught me:
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. -Romans 5:3-4
Perseverance is persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Through the pain of heartbreak, you have to keep going, even when the future looks shaky and your heart feels like it will never love again. There were days I didn’t want to get out of bed. Getting through the day was a mammoth task. I felt purposeless and depressed – all the time. But our God is gentle, and everyday He encouraged me to get out of bed and move forward.
Similarly, with running, after a certain amount of miles, your body and mind start to fatigue so it is easy to get dejected and quit. But it is during the tough times that we grow and develop character. Perseverance saw me through to the finish line every single time.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. -Hebrews 11:1
Break ups are a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute you feel empowered and independent, and the next you are drowning in self pity, but on this ride you learn to trust the Lord. Similarly, I had to trust that God would help me finish every run. Your own human strength can carry you only so many miles; it is God who will see you to the finish line, for “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phillipians 4:13). Many times during a run you want to give up and quit – you’re tired, your body hurts, you can't breathe, you don’t see results quick enough – but it is during these times that you need to have faith in the unseen and not the hardship staring you in the face.
Discipline and obedience
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. -Hebrews 12:11
To truly be in God's presence, you have to repent and completely change your worldly ways. This requires discipline and obedience.
What is training without discipline and obedience? To have a relationship with God, you need to spend time in the word daily. I had to make time everyday to be with Him. Eventually, studying the Bible and prayer time became as important to me as going to work, and morning coffee. I made a schedule and stuck to it. I had to be disciplined about Bible study, prayer time, and going to church. Likewise, to be a runner, you have to put in the practice runs, the strength training, and healthy food decisions. If God had not taught me discipline and obedience in His word, I would never have been disciplined enough to train.
When it comes to running, there are so many obstacles – injuries, bad runs etc, but without God’s strength, it’s easy to get stuck in the running rut. What may be a week of “resting” can stretch into a month and then we altogether give up. We become like the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5) - full of excuses, fear and self-pity. In the midst of my melancholy, this verse kept popping up:
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. -Hebrews 4:16
I had to boldly claim the joy and peace the Lord promised me. There was no room for fear or self-pity. When you run - spiritually or physically - be courageous! Don’t give up till you cross that finish line. Fearlessly pursue the joy and fulfillment God will give you at the finish line.
For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. -Isaiah 41:13
Running isn’t just about physical strength and stamina. It’s another way to glorify God. Praise Him in all things – the good runs and the bad, and always give Him credit, for nothing is possible without Him.