Running from worry

 

Anxiety and my running career used to be one in the same. I could count the number of times I didn’t throw up before a race in high school. I was a year-round cross country and track athlete that worked hard and often succeeded. I longed for my own glory more than I would have liked to admit.

I tied my identity to my athletic performance. I began throwing up before I ran races because of the sheer fear I faced as I approached the unknown. Would I run a PR? Would I let down the team? As I matured as an athlete, the nerves were not as much of an issue, but I had conditioned my body to vomit before I raced. I allowed my anxiety to control me as I made myself obedient to the weightiness of achieving glory.

It wasn’t until college that the Lord revealed the idol I crafted for myself in the very form of running. A gift he had given me for his glory, I twisted and made into something for my own glory.

There is a story that talks about a father giving his child a bike for Christmas. The child is surprised and overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. After giving her father a hug, the child jumps on the bike and races around the neighborhood. The father in return is filled with joy as he sees the delight of his daughter. After a time, the father begins to feel sad as his child starts to miss dinner and neglect the time they had spent together. Her attention is fixated on the bike alone. She has chosen the gift over the giver.

God gifted me with the ability and desire to run for his enjoyment, but I made it about myself. I took the bike and rode it into the sunset. All the while, I was neglecting my Heavenly Father that simply longed to be in relationship with me.

The Lord wants to give us good gifts, because we are his beloved children! In Matthew 7:11, it reads, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

When we begin to worry about the gifts God has given us, we are resting in our own strength rather than trusting the giver.

Our anxieties are often directly tied to something we have made an idol in our life. In desperation, we worry and hope in what the world has to offer rather than the hope and provision of Christ.

“So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).

The pagans run after what the world has to offer. The ones who do not believe find purpose and urgency in the things that may offer earthly satisfaction. We worry about things that we think will bring us everlasting joy. When Jesus is our true king, we seek the Lord’s face without fear knowing that he will provide for us. We have faith!

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I thought I had surrendered my heart and my desires to the Lord for years. It wasn’t until I could not run as well as I once did that I realized his true purposes for my life had nothing to do with the gift, but the giver himself.

When I came to the feet of Jesus with nothing to offer besides a broken and contrite spirit, he multiplied my joy and maximized my impact. He maximized my impact for the gospel because it had nothing to do with me anymore—he received all the glory.

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 31:16-17).

 

 

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