My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4, NKJV)
I am a runner. I’m definitely not an elite runner; I’m what’s called a casual runner. I’ve never been exceptionally fast or fit. But a few years ago I discovered running as a tool for physical fitness, dealing with stress, and an outlet for friendship and outreach. Since then, running has become a life habit that helps me stay physically and spiritually healthy.
Many runners, whether elite or casual, have some kind of goal-oriented training mindset. We have goals to become faster, stronger runners in whatever stage of life we’re in. And we commit, in varying degrees, to some kind of training regimen that includes healthy eating, physical training and adequate rest.
Growth happens through training; races test our growth. When we race, we push our bodies as far and as fast as they can go. But the training prepares us for race day, stretching our limits so we can go farther and faster than before. Race day, then, gives us a momentary snapshot of our progress—an opportunity to look back on the training, reconsider any adjustments we might need to make, and to look ahead to the next race.
Living the Christian Life is a lot like running. The Christian Life is characterized by faith—not just faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ, but also faith in God’s plans and promises for the world and in our own lives. God’s desire for us is to grow nearer to Him, both relationally and also in Christian character, which serves as a reflection of God’s heart that can be witnessed by the unbelieving world.
The trials in life can be extraordinarily difficult. But, similar to how races offer a snapshot of a runner’s progress, trials provide a snapshot of how our faith journey is going. They provide us with feedback about where our hearts and minds are and help us redirect our focus toward our loving Lord.
That’s one way we come to find joy in the trials of life. Not for the sake of the trials themselves, but by looking at them through eyes of faith—seeing how God has been working our lives, drawing near to Him again for spiritual renewal, and recommitting our hearts to receiving the fullness of His transforming presence in our lives.