“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
It’s safe to say that there’s been no shortage of spiritual trials for everyone over the past several months. Loneliness, isolation, fear, and mistrust have all reared their ugly heads at some point in the nation’s consciousness, as we’ve all been made to retreat within our comfort zones. While it would be easy to touch on multiple examples of all of these, overcoming the physical challenges imposed by quarantine recently provided me with a metaphor that applies to those times when our faith is tested to rise up to the challenge.
Having recently dropped a considerable amount of weight through diet and cardio exercise, one particular concern near the top of my list was my gym’s closure in March. It’s one thing to run on a climate-controlled indoor and enclosed track with no hills or valleys. It’s another thing entirely to take on the challenge of outdoor running in the spring and summer, especially for a novice. But realizing that I was left with very little choice, I resolved to do just that. And a wondrous transformation happened. Through perseverance and wise decision-making about when to run and how much to push, pull back, and pace myself, I felt as if I had achieved a new level I never would have thought possible when I first began. As a result, upon receiving word that gyms were reopening recently, I faced an internal challenge of whether to return or to simply keep doing what I had been doing through the quarantine, knowing that I’d made it through the hardest months of the year for outdoor running. I can always bundle up in winter, right?
But a rainy, cold Thursday night just last week forced my hand in returning to the gym, as running outside was a near impossibility. Doing so revealed that I had developed much more stamina and speed. As a matter of fact, I felt like a conquering hero as I ran on the indoor track that night. Everything that had previously been a struggle was much easier and I actually had to run more to get to the level of burn that I’m now accustomed to. It helped me to make the decision to stick with the outdoor running despite it’s challenges, and to use the gym only as necessary.
In the same way, consistency in prayer and Bible study prepare us for the stressors and hurdles in the spiritual realm. These things have absolutely been my lifelines in combatting the issues I listed above. Strength and courage are gained, giving us the ability to stare down the enemies of our soul, resolve to fight, and emerge victorious on the other side where we can look back and say to them, “Is that all you’ve got?”
- DAVE BUMGARNER