“No hills, please.” That was a recent thought in my mind as Aaron and I were running in our new favorite location, River Cliff Union Cemetery in Mt. Gilead. At the time I was having that thought, I knew a hill was coming, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. You see, my legs prefer a flat route. It’s so much easier that way. As we continued to run, I thought about how I feel the same way when it comes to life in general. No hills, please. Just smooth, easy paths. What purpose do hills serve anyway?
Well, it turns out, they do serve a purpose for runners. According to Runner’s World, running hills improves your running form, improves your muscular strength, and provides a cardiovascular boost. The bottom line is that running a path with hills requires endurance.
The same can be said for the hills we encounter in our lives too. They require endurance. The Apostle Paul spoke of these things –
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)
I recently heard suffering defined by Elisabeth Elliott in this way – “Suffering is having what we don’t want or not having what we do want.” When you think about it in those terms, suffering can mean a lot of different things to different people. Think of suffering like hills in our path. Some are smaller than others. Some are really steep, but short-lived. Others, are steep and seem to go on forever. The truth about these hills is that no matter the size or duration, they produce in us endurance.
The progression in Romans 5:3 has always been interesting to me. Doesn’t it seem like hope should come first? I have hope so I can endure, right? That’s not what it says though. It says the byproduct of endurance is character, and the byproduct of character is hope. The hope is actually produced from the character that is developed when we learn to endure through hardship and suffering. Those crazy hills DO have a purpose.
The word for ‘endurance’ in Greek is hypomone. It means steadfastness, patience, constancy. The Strong’s Concordance notes that in the New Testament, it refers to the characteristic of a person who is not swerved from their deliberate purpose and their loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and suffering. Endurance develops our character, which in turn brings us hope. Hope is a beautiful thing. It’s something we definitely want to have, but there isn’t a shortcut to getting it according to this passage in Romans.
Do you have any hills in your path right now? Take great comfort in the truth that those hills are there for a reason. They are working something in you. Don’t give up. Endure. Persevere. Your character is developing. Hope is growing. In case you need a little more convincing, here are a couple of other truths from God’s Word –
“Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness(hypomone). And let steadfastness (hypomone) have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 (ESV)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance(hypomone)the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
That race is bound to have some hills, but let’s run it with endurance. Let’s even try to embrace the hills, knowing that they are purposeful and producing something in us that can’t be produced any other way.
Runner’s World gives some advice for how to run uphill – lean into the hill, think about running tall, and look ahead rather than down. Pretty good advice, isn’t it? Let’s lean into the hills that God has made part of our race, let’s think about running tall up those hills, and let’s look to Jesus Who not only founded our faith, but also is perfecting it.
One of my favorite video clips is a scene from the movie Facing the Giants. If you’re facing a hill today, consider taking a moment to watch it. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, it always inspires me to keep pressing on. The link is below.
Dear Father, I pray for anyone reading this post who is struggling with hardship right now and feels like giving up. Please give them the strength that they need to endure. Help them to lean into the hill, think about running tall, and fix their eyes on You. Surround them with brothers and sisters who will cheer them on and encourage them as they let this hardship develop character in them. I pray that Your work in them will produce abundant hope that will never disappoint because Your love has been poured out in their hearts through the Holy Spirit that You have given to us. Thank you that these hills are purposeful, and that Your grace is sufficient to enable us to keep on running with endurance the race that is set before us. Amen.
(We would love to hear from you. If you are facing a hill right now and would like for us to pray, if you have encouragement to share with others who are running uphill, or if you have a truth you hang on to when you are in an uphill run, please leave us a comment below.)