Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4
As a long time runner, I appreciate the analogy Paul uses in today’s passage to the church at Rome. You see, running long distances does produce pain and suffering in your legs, knees, and ankles. But, if you continue to persevere through the pain and suffering, you get stronger. With this strength you are able to run longer distance which builds your character as you endure the hardships of running. However, what is more important is how all the suffering, pain, persevering, and character building lead to the hope of running even further distances as your body adapts and grows stronger.
Prior to my diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, I ran for three specific reasons: to reduce the stress of a high pressure career, to improve my health, and to maintain my fighting weight! This triad of benefits was the precious prize for running my physical race successfully. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I had to give up running because of problems with depth perception and simply getting too exhausted. However, I made a conscious decision to continue running my spiritual race in a manner worthy of the calling of Christ. I could have simply given up on the challenge and let Alzheimer’s run its course. No one would have blamed me for this “selfish” action because I might have had only a few good years left so why spend them serving others? Instead, I opted to press on in my spiritual race in spite of my situation. I continued to teach, write, read, pray, serve, and give like nothing changed in my life.
Why do I still do this? Because of the hope I have in Christ. He assures me He is in control and He will guide my steps as I willingly serve Him. Will my service be different than before Alzheimer’s disease? Absolutely! I’m certainly not as mentally focused as before, my mind is not as sharp as before, I forget more things than before, and I tire out more easily than before. But nonetheless, I can still serve because of the perseverance, character, and hope Christ has instilled in me. You see, in a race there are often steep hills runners must endure if they are to complete a long distance race. I see Alzheimer’s as just another steep hill in my long distance spiritual race. Rather than give up, I push on hoping to reach the top!
Perhaps you are struggling in your spiritual race as you deal with Alzheimer’s disease. Don’t give up hope. Hold on to what Paul penned in today’s passage. Keep running but do so in a manner worthy of Christ’s calling. Run knowing that Christ will instill within you perseverance, character, and hope for your spiritual race as well.