Heart pounding in my chest, I pushed myself to keep running even though every muscle in my body was screaming at me to stop. “I can do this.”
I spoke it out loud, trying to convince myself that I could, in fact, do this. My goal was just ahead. I had told myself, “Get to the other end of that church parking lot, or make it to the end of your timer.” Both were farther off than I thought I could endure, but I kept telling myself, “I can do this.”
I lowered my eyes and kept moving, trying to keep my focus off the distance between me and the finish. It was my third set of nine minutes. I had never done nine minutes in a row before, and there I was on my last set. Three in one night. I was hurting. Straining. Refusing to give up.
“I can do this.” Unwilling to accept defeat so close to finishing it, I pushed myself harder. My throat was so dry from panting. When I started, breathing was easy. By this time, it was essential, but almost impossible. My lips were cracked from the air moving over them so quickly and I was parched. “I can do this.”
I kept saying it to myself, willing myself to do what I knew at this point I could not. I wanted to quit so badly, but something in me kept reaching for the mark. There it was. I was so close to the end of the parking lot, and my alarm still had not gone off. It had to be close to done too. Would I stop when I got there and miss out on a few seconds, or could I push myself past the brink and make the time? “I can do this!”
I was going for it. I was passing the end of the parking lot if it came to it, because I was determined to not let myself down. What’s a few more seconds when your body has already been defeated by your will? I leaned forward in determination and sped up to counteract the command my mind had already sent to my legs to stop. “I can do this!” I told myself. Just a little more!
Beep! Beep! Beep! The timer went off right as my foot hit the very end of the church parking lot asphalt. I was done. I stopped and leaned over, gulping the air and smiling in satisfaction. I had finished it! My last set of nine. My three miles. It was done. I had achieved what I thought was impossible. I had pressed on despite the pain of it. I had forced myself to defy flesh and pursue the end mark. I was victorious!!
There’s a compelling doctrine circulating that tells us that God wants us happy. Healthy, wealthy and pain-free. Enough goodness and enough faith will bring about His abundant blessings. And it’s all a bunch of hogwash.
Paul urges us to press on toward the mark for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). He didn’t pen this letter from a lofty Caribbean escape, or from the backseat of his Lincoln. He wrote to the Philippians while in prison. And he wasn’t there because his life was a failure. He was there because he was doing the will of God and the forces of hell had come against him. Yet he was pressing on!
So many of us are wondering what we’ve done wrong because God isn’t blessing us. Or isn’t hardly speaking at the moment. Our lives don’t look anything like what the mega-preacher said it would, and we wonder how we can be of so little faith and yet feel like we believe wholeheartedly. There’s a missing link. Why are we sick? Feeling abandoned? Why are we not hearing His voice? We wonder what is so wrong in us that God is sitting in silence watching our worthless efforts instead of saving us.
Can I offer you this? How about nothing. Nothing is wrong with us. The missing link is this: the truth. The truth is God is not nearly as obsessed with our happiness as we are. He is obsessed with holiness. Without it none shall see God (Hebrews 12:14). And our trials are not evidence of our failure to have faith, they are meant to purify us (Isaiah 48:10, Daniel 12:10).