For a season (or 12) I lived and breathed competitive figure skating.
As I progressed in the sport my competitive programs became more difficult. And while I loved practicing jumps and spins, I was somewhat less enthusiastic about endurance training.
The tricks were the fun part. And running through my four-and-a-half minute program was something I avoided at all costs. It was so hard! It would start out well but as the last note rang out my face was bright red and my breathing laboured.
“I must have athlete’s asthma,” I remember rasping at my coach.
“You don’t,” she said. “You lack endurance.”
Endurance wasn’t something 15-year-old me cared about. I just wanted to do the big tricks without the boring preparation.
Of course now I realize endurance’s value. Being strong and able to land a triple jump is great, but if I can’t finish my program I’m not going to go very far in figure skating.
This analogy can also be applied to the Christian life. There are lots of strength tricks we can perform, and earn encouraging feedback or praise from others for our trouble. But what about when tough times come? Will our tricks be enough for us to hold to our faith?
Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians are some of my favourite for remembering the value of enduring in the midst of hard times.
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness....” That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV)
Instead of becoming strong, we are instructed to endure. Training for endurance is not glamorous. No one notices you reading your Bible before work or espouses compliments over the worn-out spots in your carpet from knelt prayers. It’s what we accomplish out of the spotlight—the hours, weeks, days, months, and years spent training our body, soul, and spirit through studying the Bible and in conversation with God—that will see us through the tough times (2 Timothy 2:11-13, Hebrews 12:7, 1 Corinthians 10:12-13).
Prayer and Bible reading are important in training for hard times, but they’re also critical when hard times hit. James 5:10-11 says, “For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.”
Thanks to the Old Testament, we do know about Job and what he endured. We can take heart that senseless suffering happens to the best of us, and know from their stories that we can get through it.
Here are a few strategies I’ve found helpful in preparing for tough times, which will come if they haven’t already.
First, decide on a regular Bible-reading schedule. In the hardest seasons of my life the Scriptures have spoken to me the loudest. But if I hadn’t been familiar with my Bible before these times, I wouldn’t have known where to find the words I could commiserate with and be comforted by.
Second, set aside time to pray. Setting aside time for prayer means I’m prioritizing my relationship with God and ensuring we have a solid connection. I know I’d be lost without it—it’s my lifeline.
Third, keep a prayer journal. For me this means leaving my raw thoughts on the page and turning them over to God. Looking back at my journal shows me how faithful God is...and how easy it is to lose sight of all He has done in my life.