“I think I’m depressed,” I told my husband. “I have no motivation to do my work. I only want to do macrame all day. What’s wrong with me? Is it hormones, aging, or this pandemic?” Along with much of the world, I was, at that moment, weary and losing heart*. After a good cry and a hug (because that’s what I needed), I turned to a familiar passage, Hebrews 12:1–15 (NIV).
The author of Hebrews (who I like to believe is Priscilla 😉 ) reminded me to not grow weary and lose heart, but rather to run with perseverance the race marked out for me. In these times when so much is out of my control, I struggle to define my race and, even more so, to persevere. Here’s what encouraged me. Perhaps it will do the same for you.
I am buoyed up by a colorful cloud
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
The example of believers who knew hardship and struggle reminds me I can do this. John Lewis, one of the last of the civil rights leaders of the 1960s died this past week. He is in my cloud of witnesses along with many from every nation and ethnicity. Complacency, mediocrity, the same-old-same-old of this pandemic dogs at my feet. Fear of change and the unknown trips me up. Laziness and lack of awareness of the plight of people of color entangles my progress. Throwing them off takes attention and intention.
Who in the colorful cloud spurs you on? What is hindering your ability to run?
I must be sure of my race in order to persevere
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
My overarching life-race hasn’t changed: I run to become like God and glorify him by building his kingdom. Last year I ran a sprint that resulted in the short-range prize of a published book. Now I flounder. I ask the Lord to reveal my current sprint and renew my passion if it is simply to keep going. Then I can run with endurance—steadfastness, constancy**—which is actually more about sticking with the faith than staying on the job.
Which race is marked out for you? What does endurance mean to you?
A laser focus on Jesus realigns my perspective
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
I recommit intentionally to remember Jesus, ponder him, listen to his voice alone, talk to him, enjoy being with him, and consider his example. Jesus did the hard thing for the joy of what it would bring. Next to Jesus, my hard things seem more manageable. Focusing on Jesus and not so much on secondary voices gives me strength to examine myself and wrestle with hard questions and uncertain futures. Time with him relieves some of the mundane of each day. Left to my own inclinations I tend to lose heart—I relax my guard and become exhausted and weak.
How are you fixing your eyes on Jesus? What is your struggle against sin? How does Jesus’s example enable you to not lose heart?
Discipline isn’t only about rebuking sin
And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
I have forgotten this word of encouragement. And so I remind myself that I am God’s daughter, his child. He proves it by giving me this hardship to bring to light my complacency and laziness. But discipline can also mean “instruction which aims at increasing virtue, whatever cultivates the soul, especially by correcting mistakes and curbing passions.” I choose to see this pandemic as a means of instruction, a way to acknowledge my weaknesses, to cultivate my soul, and curb negative desires. A type of test, if you will. I wasn’t doing so well last week. I resolve to face myself and improve.
How are you doing under this hardship? Will you endure, or will you grow weary and lose heart?
Strengthening myself in the Lord takes self-discipline
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
This sends me right back to 1 Samuel 30:6: “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (NASB).” Just as it takes more work, intention, time, and money to keep arms and knees strong in old age, I must continue to put energy and time into maintaining spiritual health. How can I strengthen—lift up, build anew, rebuild—myself? How can I push for healing for the broken world around me? The next verse gives me a clue.
In what ways are you strengthening yourself in the Lord?
Work at peace-making, not peace-keeping
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Pursue, strive for peace with everyone. I have believed this meant avoiding conflict, smiling, and letting go of hurt. I suggest that this is more like peace-keeping. The more difficult peace-making means I don’t sweep issues under the rug, ignore conflict, and pretend that everything is okay. Rather I strive to become aware of issues, confess, and seek to right any wrongs I have done.***
In what ways might you be keeping peace rather that making peace?
Hold onto hope
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful … You need to persevere [endure] so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:23, 36 NIV
The author tells me how to do this in an earlier chapter of the epistle. He (or she😉) exhorts me to hold fast—keep secure, firm possession of—the hope I profess. This sounds a whole lot like enduring. Then he (or she) reminds me that my God is faithful. Hope in a faithful God—that is what I need!
How are you holding fast to the hope you profess? How has God been faithful to you?
Heavenly Father, I need your hope and help to endure during this pandemic season. I know that my hardship is no way near what you endured on my behalf nor what others suffer worldwide. But in my little corner of the world, help me to not grow weary but continue to run the race you have marked out for me. Grow in me the perseverance and character that models Christ.
*Clinical depression is real. If you suspect your weariness is way beyond a pep talk from the book of Hebrews, please consult a doctor or therapist.
**All my Greek and Hebrew word definitions come from Blue Letter Bible.
***I realize that this topic is far more complex that this short paragraph addresses.