Opportunities for joy

2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1: 2-4

Trials and endurance. An opportunity for joy? What a difficult concept to grasp. Running is the one thing in my life that I can say has given me a more pure understanding of the ability to rejoice through trials. Few things in life feel more joyful than finishing a particularly difficult workout and knowing you overcame the desire to quit in the middle of it and pushed through to the end.

It’s hot and steamy in South Mississippi. I’m fat and slow. Sometimes, it seems like I’m so slow that I’m actually running backwards. I know that’s not possible, but the same landmarks keep appearing in my line of vision as though I’m running past them over & over. Kind of like how I keep praying for the same things over and over and when God answers, I can’t even see the answer right in front of my face because it wasn’t the one I was expecting. I was cleaning out a cabinet this week and found some prayer journals from the early 90’s. I was praying then for some of the same things I pray for now, and it got me to thinking. Had God really not answered those prayers? Or had He answered them in such a way that I didn’t feel was appropriate?

Paul struggled with a “thorn” that God never removed despite many fervent, and I’m sure, agonized requests. I’ve struggled with weight issues for my entire life. Even when I shouldn’t have been concerned about weight, I allowed society and satan to affect my thinking to the point that I’ve always considered myself overweight. That is wrong on so many levels, and I think I’m finally coming to a clearer understanding of that. My goals over the last few years have been centered on fitness and becoming stronger, and I’ve certainly achieved that. I have a long way to go to be as fit as I want to be, but I’m well over halfway there. But, apparently, my weight issues will continue to be a thorn for me. I’m very aware that, as thorns go, this is a really small one. Perhaps this is God’s way of ensuring that I stay focused on maintaining fitness and health. Instead of throwing my hands up in frustration and quitting, He wants me to keep walking the walk (or running the run), and not give up or give in. Trials and endurance. An opportunity for joy. It doesn’t feel joyful when I step on that infernal scale. But, I’m searching for the joy. And I’ll keep up the fight.

If our walks (or runs) through life were easy, how would we ever be able to empathize with someone whose walk is a struggle? My battles may not be your battles, but we all have them to fight. Learning to continue to fight, even when there seems to be no relief in sight is probably one of the hardest things to do. I’m struggling to make this fight an opportunity for joy in my life. Running has taught me that you can accomplish anything you want, but the journey to your goal will not be easy. Sometimes, it will be downright ugly. I’m at that ugly point right now, but as He always does, I know that God will make beauty from ashes. I’ll keep fighting the fight secure in that knowledge.

The tragedy of life doesn’t come from not reaching a goal, the tragedy comes from not having a goal to reach.” Benjamin Mays

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