I was at the gym the other night blasting my worship music through my headphones (literally songs we sing on Sunday morning, it’s fine). Don’t get my wrong, I love my pop pump up songs too. But some days I use my workout or run as a time to connect with Jesus. It’s my personal rejuvenation time. It’s stress relieving. It’s like my physical body and soul are all on this Jesus grind and I love it.
And as I was finishing my last rep, I looked around at everyone else working out. I wondered what their motives were. What kind of music were they listening to? What is their reasoning for choosing that music? What gets them hyped up to be at the gym? As you can tell, I’m a deep thinker and love to try to understand people. And as I was having these thoughts, it brought me back to a year ago when I decided to train to run a half marathon. I felt the need to share this story.
A friend of mine had ran one a few weeks earlier, and I thought it was seriously amazing that she pushed through 13.1 miles. I was instantly motivated. And to be completely honest, I still don’t understand why. It was October. I knew I would be training through the winter. I had never ran more than maybe 2.5 miles consistently and I struggled just running that. I think the challenge intrigued me, so I went all in. Minutes after talking to her about it I was looking up “how to train for a half marathon” on google.
I found a training schedule that looked good. I had no idea what “good” was supposed to look like. I had never been a runner, so I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was discouraged by a lot of people. “Are you sure you want to do that?” “13.1 miles is really far.” “Maybe you should wait until the spring when it’s warmer and see if you’re still interested.” I. Did. Not. Care. I let the doubt fuel me. I started training and didn’t look back.
It’s very interesting how this challenge evolved. It started as something I really wanted to do. Then it turned into something I couldn’t not do because I had made it this far. And then it transformed into a way for me to honor my word to myself and reach for God’s help along the way. Literally (stay tuned for race day). It became an outlet for me to talk to God and deepen my faith through this quiet time.
As the miles got longer and the days got colder, I would use my runs as a time to jam out to Christian music and find God. However, I didn’t start this way. I used to listen to the trap rap stuff. I rarely would listen to Christian music before this, especially during a workout. My mom always had it on growing up, so it seemed repetitive to me. But as my training progressed, I sought different kinds of music to keep my mind busy (running for an hour and a half can get boring and frankly lonely).
Running became so much more to me than it had in the past. It became a spiritual break from stress, from life, from problems. It was relaxing and comforting. It was my one on one Jesus time.
I could go on and on about the little things I experienced during different runs, but I want to get to the good part. The day I ran my race.
It was a Saturday in the beginning of February. I think it was about 12 degrees and it started at 8am. I. Was. Hyped. I woke up at 6am ready to go, lots of adrenaline, and carb packed beyond belief. There was one thing I told myself I wanted to do before the race. I wanted to pray about it. But as the morning went on, I completely let it slip by.
It’s 8am. I’m SO ready. The gun fires and I’m off. Until about mile 2. I got this feeling of complete exhaustion. COMPLETE exhaustion. Like I had no clue how I was going to run 11 more miles feeling like this. And I was confused. I had trained for months for this. I carb loaded like I was supposed to. To completely suck on race day? Not that I was trying to compete for time, but my goal was to finish it without stopping and I felt like there was no way that was going to happen. “This is punishment for not praying this morning”, I thought to myself. I had my Christian music on at that point and I thought “well maybe I should change the station to something more upbeat”. I talked myself out of it. I told myself God had been with me through this journey and He was going to finish it with me.
The race continued in that fashion. I dreaded it. It was cold. I felt slow. I wanted to be at the finish line with my family watching someone else do this thing.
Mile 11. At this point I was about ready to start walking. But I had told myself I was going to do it and I didn’t train for me to just quit. I looked up at the sky and started praying.
“God, you might think this is completely ridiculous. It’s just a race. I can just take a quick walk break. But I don’t want to. I promised myself I would do this and I want to stay true to my own word. My legs are cramping, I’m thirsty, and I can’t feel my fingers, toes, or face. I need your help.”
And after that prayer, my hand started to feel warm. I smiled. He was holding my hand. He was listening and He was with me. Little did I know, this was just the start.
Mile 12. In approximately the same spot I asked for help during the previous mile, I cried out again.
“God, I know you’re here with me. Im so close and I have no energy. My legs are in so much pain. I need you.”
And at that very moment, I literally kid you not, I saw Jesus. I’m tearing up remembering this because I was blown away. There he was, very faintly, running right next to me literally whispering in my ear. A winter hat, a warm smile, kind eyes. “You can do this. I’m right here. Run with me.” I had a smile from ear to ear and tears flooded my face (all while I was still running). He was running this race next to me, being my personal cheerleader. And holy smokes does it still give me goosebumps. The day you see his face the way I did that morning, it changes your life.
Mile 13. The last mile. It was the home stretch. One more mile left. God had held my hand, he had literally shown himself to me, and here I was praying for help one more time.
“God, be my legs.” That’s all I needed. That’s all I had left.
And as I’m coming around the curve of my last quarter mile, my legs were burning, cramping, and aching from hip to toe. When all of a sudden, in an instant, no pain. Nothing. I couldn’t feel a thing. My prayer was answered. My legs were His legs for the last stretch. He was running for me, 100%. Again, I started bawling as I had a burst of energy. He was being my legs for me when I felt like I had nothing left.
Right before crossing the finish line, I thanked Him ferociously. I was emotional. I was completely mind-blown. And after crossing that line, I fell into my Dad’s arms, shaky and achy once again.
Phillipians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
The reason I share this story is to 1. Show you that God is 10000% real. And 2. Prove that He truly is with you in all things, especially times of trial. When you feel like giving up, when you feel like you have nothing left, turn to Him. Cry out His name. Make yourself vulnerable to Him. Whether it’s a financial rock bottom, you have no idea how you’re going to raise these kids, you feel like you just can’t finish your degree, or you’re running a half marathon.
Don’t let the enemy keep you from seeking Him. As dumb as it seems, I truly believe keeping that Christian music playing had a huge impact on my experience. I made a decision to keep Jesus close, when I really wanted to draw away and seek other ways to get through the struggle.
He is with you every single step of the way and He wants you to ask for His help. He loves each and every one of us so much. He wants to be your Heavenly Father and walk you through the trials. Mine might have been a half marathon that wasn’t a life or death situation, but it taught me how real and true His love really is. He used this small example to prove to me and possibly you too that when things hurt, when you are at your last straw and want to quit, He’s there. And prayer is how you call His name. It is tremendously powerful.
He knows your trials. He can show himself to you. He can be your cheerleader. You just have to humbly surrender yourself and ask. Give your struggles to the Creator and he will answer.
So let me ask you, what music do you listen to? Do you keep Him close to you? What are your motives for doing the thing you enjoy? Do you seek Him when you’re feeling drained? When you don’t think you can finish? He is your ultimate strength. He can be your legs too.
I hope this story inspired you the way it inspires me every time I retell it. I hope it encourages you to find your Jesus outlet. I can’t stress enough how real He is and how much He wants to have your whole self and your whole heart to transform your life into a beautiful story that He personally planned for you. He wants to be your shoulder to cry on, your best friend. We were made to rely on Him in all things.