I laced up my trail shoes and took a deep breath. The delicious aroma of the forest filled me. My eyes lifted, tracing the trunks of pine trees pointing toward heaven. Butterflies danced in my stomach as I anticipated running in a trail race again.
In 2020 and early 2021, most trail and road races were canceled. Because of the global pandemic and a long fire season in California, it had been more than fifteen months since I’d run in an official race.
That’s a long time for me.
You see, running has always been my saving grace. It’s the way I clear my mind and re-center my heart back on God and the truth. It’s the place I preach the gospel back to myself when I’m feeling weary or out of sorts. I generally choose several races a year to train for because the joy is in the training – starting out slow and building up to longer miles. I love working toward a goal and seeing how God meets me with His glory on the journey.
Training outdoors in God’s creation is my favorite soul care, but this year training was rough through the many weeks of horrible air quality due to forest fires. I tried to exercise indoors, but it wasn’t quite the same without the beautiful mountain backdrops. The air was thick and heavy, and the sky was often an apocalyptic pink.
On the morning of the Shadow of the Giants 25k, my heart pulsed with anticipation. It was my fifth time running this race. Returning to this course has always been a marker to reflect on how far God has brought me in this race of life, and He’s always met me in a unique way as my shoes hug the familiar trails.
However, as I followed the camber of the trail at 6,000-feet elevation, I saw trees with blackened trunks. The landscape felt stark and unfamiliar. Whole sections of the forest were open and bare like too much scalp showing after a bad haircut. There was an eerie hush over the land.
Dirt and gravel gave way to sand and tree roots as the trail took a sharp turn upwards. The sun beat down on my shoulders. There were moments when it felt too arduous to even lift my legs, let alone run.
One more step, one more stretch, I kept telling myself. Persevere.
I couldn’t help thinking about how the Shadow of the Giants course mirrored many of our experiences this past year through the pandemic. Just as we rounded one bend and anticipated a little downhill, there was another surprising, sharp uphill to climb.
Perseverance means to persist in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement we might encounter.
The Bible talks a lot about perseverance and how it is a key ingredient to growing our faith. Hebrews 12:1 says, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
It’s easy to focus on our shortcomings and disappointments, but Hebrews 12 reminds us where we need to fix our eyes — on Jesus. He’s the pioneer, the trail blazer, our pacer for life.
I have learned on my journey that the best way to navigate grief, to tackle impossible assignments, and to face tough conversations is to take the next step, and then the next.
When you’re tired of getting up in the morning for that same job, persevere.
When you’re discouraged about your child struggling in school, persevere.
When you have pandemic fatigue and you’re tired of all the protocols and decisions, persevere.
When you’re navigating another health challenge, persevere.
Friend, I know some of you are tempted to give up right about now. You are bone-weary and frustrated. You are staring up another uphill climb and wondering if it will ever get easier. Let me encourage you to persevere.
Notice Hebrews 12:1 does not say to bootstrap your way to the finish line. It doesn’t say push yourself so hard that you neglect much needed rest. It doesn’t say to try to find the shortest or easiest possible route. It says to run with perseverance after Jesus.
Romans 5:3-5 reminds us what perseverance produces:
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Did you catch that?
Perseverance produces character and leads us down the path to hope.
Jesus persevered up a huge hill to die on a cross in our place. Three days later, He rose from the grave. He is our example of perseverance that regenerates hope.
I’m not going to lie. Those last few miles in the Shadow of the Giants race were hard. They changed the course because of some construction on the road, and it threw me off. At one point, I imagined myself dropping to the ground and crawling to the finish line. The struggle was real.
And then suddenly, my feet found a familiar road flanked by glorious trees that led to the finish line. I came full circle on the path that reminded me His glory still persists. And though the trail was much harder than I anticipated, I found the work of perseverance had paid off and hope filled me to keep going.
Marcy Clements says
Excellent. Thank you!
Thank you for reading, Marcy!
There is something so special challenging ourselves outdoors. While I no longer run, I have become an avid hiker and at times when I want to turn back because it is just too hard, I push myself and the reward, the satisfaction of finishing is such a joy. For me, hiking is an opportunity to look at God’s creation and marvel at the beauty. And although this year we don’t seem to be getting the change of colors this year due to the weather, it is still a reminder of the glory of God and that I am not alone.
Exactly! I love the way He displays His glory outdoors! Our family loves hiking too!
Dear Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young, Thank you for this encouraging devotion! I have been learning the art of perseverance all of my life and will try to memorize these great Bible verses.
I’m glad this resonated with you. These scriptures anchor me.
Thank you, I needed to read this today! Work has been so depressing lately, so your words “When you’re tired of getting up in the morning for that same job, persevere.” has inspired me to start anew each day. Refresh and move on, don’t look back but move forward.
Ruth B Mills says
Simply beautifully encouraging! Thank you!
Thanks for reading! Cheering you on!
Patricia Raybon says
Beautiful Dorina! Thank you so much! I’ve never run a road race, indoors or out. But I’m facing a big project right now, and even some opposition to it. So, your inspiring words today about running with perseverance, keeping our eyes on Christ — for His glory — are encouraging me in a timely, loving, and lifting way. Thank you with His love, Patricia
I’m glad this resonated with you and your current project, my friend. One step at a time – following Jesus! I’m cheering you on to the finish!
Dan Rassier says
To persevere, is to live. To run trails is Heaven!
So true. Trail running is my ticket to glory!
I saw a quote a long time ago and never forgot it. “When long and steep the path appears and heavy is the task, the Lord would say, keep on my child one step is all I ask!” I may not have it exactly right but it’s a good thing to remember. Also, I saw this little reminder in Daily Bread years ago. When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. To me it means don’t give up. We may not all be runners but it is a very good article full of sound guidance. Thank you.
Love that quote! I’m glad you saw this one is for all of us – not just the runners! ♀️
Karen Knowles says
Good one, Dorina!
Thank you! Appreciate your encouragement!
Jennifer Haynie says
I loved, loved, loved this, especially because I’m training for my first half-marathon. But also because it is so true. Thank you for sharing.
Oooh, which half are you running? I’m training for a half right now too! If you’re on Facebook, check out our Glory Chasers Christian running group for encouragement and free coaching tips!
Melissa Ens says
Thanks for the encouragement and happy birthday, Walk, Soar, Run! ♀️ Perseverance is definitely the name of the game right now. Thanks for the reminder.
Thank you, friend! Can’t believe it’s been a year! ♀️Persevere!
I so loved this. Reminded me also of Isaiah 40:31. They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.
He has asked us to run the race not win the race. All he asks is that we run and finish.
Remember several Olympics ago when a man was running a race and it was long over and they waited and waited and finally he crossed the finish line. He had fallen or something but he kept going. It was that important that he finished. How inspiring. Let us not forget.
That’s another one of my favorite verses and part of the opening of my devotional book! Let’s persevere together! ♀️
Beth Williams says
Life is full of challenges. There are trials around every corner. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. When life gets touch we have to persevere. For perseverance produces character & character produces hope Hope in the God of the universe. When trials come & they will go to God for guidance & strength to complete this journey.
Another one of my favorite running passage in the Bible!