Cross country was the first sport for every one of our kids. My wife started each of them distance running when they were very young. Now all who have reached the age of 12 have run in a cross country race, to endure what I consider one of the toughest mental battles on earth. You learn many lessons in cross country, but none are more important than these two: to think of your blessings and to endure to the end.
To Endure in Gratitude
When my wife runs with our kids, the young ones inevitably get fatigued. As physical fatigue is related to mental exhaustion, an upbeat athlete with a positive attitude will find running easier.
My wife always plays the gratitude game running with our kids. The second they get discouraged or whiny, she tells them to look around and point out things they are grateful for. As each begins looking and expressing gratitude, they find it easier to endure the run they have planned.
Focusing on gratitude helps us to endure in many aspects of our lives. We can turn to scriptures to remind us of the importance of gratitude.
Psalms 100:4 encourages us to “be thankful unto [God] and bless his name.” Paul’s messages in Ephesians and Colossians also remind us of the importance of expressing our thanks. Alma lets us know that first thing in the morning is one of the best times to engage in a heart full of thanksgiving.
So I recommend starting the gratitude game at the beginning of the day, with five minutes of identifying things in your life that you are grateful for and writing them down. If you get discouraged or feel weak during the day, let your list help you to endure. Express directly to God your thanks for these things that mean so much to you. When I do this, I find it is immediately easier to endure—every time.
To Endure to the End
Not all runs dissolve easily into gratitude games. Recently my daughter ran a 5k race that did not agree with her. She felt horrible as she struggled to get into a rhythm. She had difficulty establishing and keeping her pace. And ultimately every step became painfully frustrating to endure.
After the race, she was discouraged with her performance. She hadn’t run nearly as fast as she had tried. As we discussed this experience, we focused on the things that she had done well. We were especially proud of her for being able to endure and finish the race, even when things weren’t going her way.
All of us have things in our lives that have not turned out quite like we had hoped and planned. In our world of bragging and broadcasting, it may be easy to feel like having struggles is not normal—that those posting on social media don’t have to endure challenges.
Remember that most social media posting is limited to the best things happening in people’s lives. We don’t know how many selfies were required to get the perfect pictures or how many days did not include those perfect meals.
A few people confess to their imperfections (usually with humor). But everyone has to endure struggles. Everyone has problems. Everyone needs hope. Everyone needs Jesus.
The Lord has told us that those who endure to the end are the ones who will have eternal life. To endure to the end is not something everyone can and will do.
“Endure” is a hard word; we will lose a lot of races, suffer considerable pain, push ourselves beyond losses, and sacrifice things which are important to us—among many trials we may not even recognize until we have to endure them.
Sometimes we will fail, and sometimes we will feel like quitting.My friend Church of Jesus Christ author Sheri Dew wrote a book titled If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn’t be Hard. To endure to the end is the victory.
Remembering this, we can find joy in our life’s journey. The Lord has promised us that His love and His grace will be with us to make up for our shortcomings and our struggles.