Whether you just finished your first week of college or you've been away from home for a few years, a new school year is always a time of transition, of growth, and change for many of us. Regardless of where we are, it's important to realize that Jesus is with us regardless and we're all at different places physically, mentally, and spiritually. Here's a little bit of wisdom and encouragement I felt I got from Jesus on a walk a few days ago.
We can't judge our walk with God based on someone else.
Comparison certainly is a dream killer, a soul-ripper. It can eat you up inside, because you either feel a false sense of safety or crippling guilt and self-deprecation. You'll never be enough if you're always looking to someone else other than Jesus as a model of how you should live.
Of course, you should totally look up to people healthily and want to get better, but this becomes unhealthy when we lose sight of God's grace and our own identity in Him.
I ran cross-country in high school, so the analogy Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 about running to win the race and training with discipline hits home for me:
If you've ever ran in any capacity, you know that not everyone runs at the same pace. There are different paces for varying running circumstances and lengths. You'll find someone sprinting for a short race and running slow and steady for a marathon. Judging a runner based on how fast or slow they are running in a snapshot of their race will never give you the full story of their race.
Even if we are running what seems to be the exact same race as someone else, sometimes we get passed up. If we see someone who looks similar to us running behind or ahead of us we tend to think we're either doing exceedingly well or not doing well enough.
Looks can be deceiving in a race. You might see someone running faster in front of you, but their pace may be off. You'll be behind for a few minutes, but eventually you'll find them walking and wheezing as you pass by. You could be in the same place, running fast for a season or segment of your race, only to need to take a deep breath and reestablished your pace.
All of this goes to say that we all run at different paces and have different races. We all have different bodies and different minds and different ways of running. Some have great speed while some have great endurance. Some people have both, and that’s great. In any event, it takes Jesus working in our minds and bodies and our own training to run the race that we've been given the best we can. It's more complicated than this and I could expound forever on this topic and circumstances that we sometimes cause ourselves and much more, but I won't get into the nuances.
Run the race. Not theirs.
It's your race alone; we're just all on the same track. When you see someone running fast, seemingly without a care in the world, know that it has nothing to do with you, that the life and race God has given them—the challenges, the successes—are different. If you feel like Jesus has given everyone else ten water stations along the way to recharge while you've been on a long, barren straightaway for ages, know that He recognizes you have the strength to keep going, because He gave it to you. When our races are difficult, they serve to better us, to train us.
Romans 8:28 reminds us that Jesus is always working towards our good, always wanting to lift us up and lead us to bear fruit.
God promises us that He will restore us and strengthen us for endurance after we've struggled. He is always preparing us! He's sculpting our legs, filling our lungs with breath, filling our bodies with energy, and giving peace to our minds so that we can focus on the race at hand. He's always with us, and He hasn't designed all of us or our races to be the same.
Remember the why behind your running.
Keep these things in mind and keep your eyes on Him, who’s eagerly cheering us on the whole way. He's not just waiting at the finish line; He's running right alongside us. Our amazing coach is all sweaty with us, clapping and encouraging us, reminding us of all He's taught. He's not angry; He's not telling us that we're terrible runners. Sometimes He gently asks us to push ourselves, but it's always out of love. It's always out of love— with our best in mind.
Follow Jesus and run to win the prize. The Devil may try to put hurdles on the track, but Jesus is always right there to knock them down. We've just have to focus on our King and keep our eyes on the finish line.
If you see someone fall, pick them up. Stay with people that will keep you at a good pace and pull you to the finish line, not people that make you want to walk or stop altogether, even turning back to the start when things are rough. Keep yourself steady and trust that He has you exactly where you should be. Stay hydrated with the water that never runs dry and keep your mind focused on the reasons we're running and where our final destination is.