One of my biggest fears is that my faith is sham.
That’s hard to admit. I’ve gone to church since I was a little girl. I grabbed hold of my faith myself when I was around 14 years old. It’s been a huge part of my life ever since.
But I have a nagging fear that maybe I only have faith because life has dealt me good cards. I have no trauma. I have no dark history. I have no relationship with grief like many of my friends have. I have loving parents. I had an idyllic childhood. I had many opportunities growing up. I have a close-knit family and endless circles of support. Sure, I’ve experienced trials like anyone else. It’s not that I haven’t had difficult times.
But who’s to say my faith isn’t just lip service? Smoke and mirrors? Me being tricked into thinking God is good only because I fell on the right side of the tracks? It’s easy to say God is good when…well…things have always been good, right?
It’s not something I lose sleep over. I hold a deep faith that I share often. But every once in awhile, I feel a nagging nugget of worry that it would crumble in a second if life took my husband…my kids…my health…any one of my family or friends…or if I experienced the shattering of my life as I know it.
How can anyone ever tell this kind of thing without living it?
Clarity for me comes on the road. When I’m out running, my mind finds new ways to sort things out, I get new ideas, and I feel freshly motivated and encouraged about a lot of things.
Yesterday was no different. There was a rest day in my weight training program, so naturally, I decided to “rest” by going for a run. I feel like I got some clarity on this very topic.
It was a chilly morning, but not too cold: the perfect temperature at 35 degrees. The sun was just rising; pink, orange, and purple streaked across the sky over a pale blue background. I laced up my shoes, feeling more jitters than normal. My preworkout was buzzing through my veins, but I also mentally needed the release of a good run. I nearly bounded out the door as soon as my kids were on the bus.
I took off into the quiet morning, my playlist blasting and my legs pounding. The road has always been a place where I can be myself. I always feel strong and free, off the grid, and boundless. After a couple miles, I noticed I was running at a particularly aggressive pace, especially if I planned to run six or seven miles. I glanced at my watch and noticed I was running at a 7:52 pace. During long runs, I’m usually around 8:30. I considered slowing down so I wouldn’t burn out, but I was feeling too good. So I went with it.
Four miles in, my pace didn’t budge. Five miles in: still 7:52. I was almost confused. How was I possibly running this fast for such a long run? I maybe do that pace for a short tempo training run but never for a long-distance run.
I wracked my brain. What had I done different? Why was I so fast today and feeling so good? Was my watch not calibrated right? I genuinely felt confused.
Then, it hit me: why wouldn’t I be going faster? I’ve not only been running since I was 12, but over the past year, I’ve recommitted to my fitness. I’ve completed strength training programs. I’ve lifted heavier. I’ve done speed training. I’ve been resting and stretching. I’ve pushed myself more. I focused more on good nutrition. Why is it surprising that my good training is catching up to me?
I’ve been doing strength-building and speed-building activities for months. So wouldn’t it make sense I’m stronger and faster? We don’t do strength-building or speed-building activities because we are strong and fast. We do them to build strong and speed. I don’t avoid those workouts simply because I’m not as strong and fast as I want to be. I do them to get strong and fast eventually.
Do you see where I’m going with this? In the same way, I don’t do faith-building habits because I have all the faith. I do them to build faith. It’s practice. It’s training. It’s forcing myself to do the habits on good and bad days alike.
Just as in my fitness and health, I focus on the habits of meal planning, workouts, rest, stretching, and hydration. In my faith, I focus on gratitude, prayer, scripture reading, worship, and serving. All of these habits, physical and mental, build up endurance and strength.
As my physical training kicked in today, my spiritual training will kick in when I need it most. Did I have to sign up for a race to see that my training was working? No. I noticed it on an average day. Do I need to have experienced trauma to know my faith is strong? No. If I keep training on the average days, I can trust that the Word, the love, and the faith God planted in me will sustain me when dark days come. They will most certainly come. And by the grace of God, I’ll be as ready for them.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3
Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. 1 Timothy 4:8-10, The Message
“Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “
‘Corrie,’ he began gently, ‘when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?’
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
‘Why, just before we get on the train.’
‘Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need-just in time.” -Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place