The shame, guilt, fear, and oppression you feel aren't from God, and those feelings don't define you. What does matter, is your willingness to run back to Him.
When I was fifteen years old, I started running for fun. By sixteen, my best friend encouraged me to beat my personal best. Bundled in mittens, a tightly woven scarf around my neck, a hat, and athletic apparel, I met her outside my high school track.
The wind whipped at us like Jack Frost as light snow began to shower from above. It was New Year's Eve. We were both determined to break records and score new heights. Soon, I'd run a mile in under eight minutes, 7:27 to be exact. After a warm-up run followed by a cool-down, I'd vowed to never run again. Not really. Just not in frigid-below temperatures like that day.
How Fast Are You Running?
In college, the fastest I could run a mile was 6:27. I thought that was pretty impressive considering I wasn't athletic, had never trained professionally, and didn't competitively play any sports. Running was something I did for fun and enjoyment.
Flash forward to Thanksgiving 2023. My husband and I decided to run the yearly Turkey Trot on a whim. I'd always wanted to do it, and as an avid runner over the years, I was confident I could still run three miles even if it had been months since I'd run three consecutive miles. I was right and wrong.
Lacing our shoes, we made our way to the packed starting line. Over 800 runners surrounded us. I was nervous until a few familiar faces made their way towards us. My best friend and her husband were also running the race and agreed to keep us company. Did I mention my best friend runs marathons (insert slightly concerned smile emoji)?
More Than a 5K Race
Over the next 3.1 miles, I was quickly reminded of my long-lost love and hate for the sport. One minute, I was overjoyed at the cool breath in my lungs and how alive I felt. The next, I couldn't wait for the agony to be over. My breath became shallow with every last minute and lightheadedness superseded my vision in the last thirty-second sprint. Crossing the finish line, I smiled.
Running the 5k that day wasn't my husband's or my best, by far. We hadn't trained and agreed to run the race for fun. 7:27 certainly wasn't my pace, and I was sore for a few days after, regardless of my less-than-stellar pace. But the race got me thinking this: I wonder how many of us approach God like this race—sometimes we run constantly and consistently, other times we go a year without running and then try to pick it back up quickly without repercussions.
If my relationship with God or running has taught me anything over the years, it's this: both require dedication and persistence and though it's possible to stop and then work on the relationship, it's much harder after a prolonged break. Every runner will tell you how easy it is to lose the ability and endurance to run long periods and top speeds when you stop. Very few runners will explain how hard it can be to stop running once you've obtained a runner's high.
Are You Called to Stop Running?
Why would I encourage you to stop running? It probably isn't what you think.
When it comes to physical running, I still advocate for and enjoy the sport. Though I haven't been as consistent as I'd like to be over the years, I understand that the season to run comes in waves. For some months, I've been running every other day and thriving in the sunshine. Others, I'm focusing on dance and don't run to prevent injury. My ability to run usually depends on my physical and mental state at that given moment.
But when should we not run?
When we're running from the Lord and processing our emotions spiritually.
In between the cool and pressed-down pages of my journal, you'll find teardrops on the day I realized this about myself and my relationship with God. In between getting engaged, married, moving, having surgery, and dealing with half a dozen mental and physical health issues, I'd been running for a while. The last five to six years to be exact.
It wasn't until I confessed the running and desired to stop that healing would start.
If you know what I'm writing about at this moment, I want to encourage you that you're not alone. The shame, guilt, fear, and oppression you feel aren't from God, and those feelings don't define you. What does matter is your willingness to run back to Him.
Running in a physical sense is a great hobby, but in a spiritual realm, it makes for a horrible god. Running to and from, trying to solve our own problems, while avoiding talking to the One who can help us navigate them all makes for a messy crash. The good news is that while there's time, we can stop running from these things, stop running on the endless hamster wheel, and start running into the arms of the loving Father who calls us His child.
How do we take this step?
Step One: Admit You Need to Stop Running
When I realized I'd been running for way too long, I knew the change wouldn't happen overnight. It's impossible to expect a brand new person in one day. What's realistic is making small changes daily. This begins by telling God you need help to change. For me, this happened in a prayer in my journal. For you, it might be during a drive session in your car, or singing at church. No matter where or how you choose to do this, prioritize confessing how you really feel.
Step Two: Repent and Ask for Forgiveness
The second way to stop running is to repent and ask for the Lord's forgiveness. God is gracious in mercy and loves to forgive us. This is why Jesus died for our sins. But our salvation isn't a free pass to keep on sinning. We need His help daily to walk in His paths, and knowing that this is a process is freeing. Not because we desire to continue to sin, but because we receive the reaffirmation that when we mess up, He's still faithful to forgive.
Step Three: Ask for Love and Support
The third and final way to stop running is to ask for the love and support of those you trust. After I made the decision to stop hiding from God, I told my husband and close friends. I knew they would support and love me in my struggles. There will be people in your life you can trust, and people who are just curious. Be careful with whom you open up to, but know that being vulnerable about your struggles is a strength.
If this post resonates with you today, know you're in my thoughts and prayers. I'm no expert at reducing how much we run and hide from the Lord, but like Jonah, I'm learning that doing so only hurts me in the end.
Friend, God has such beauty in store for your future. You can only begin to unleash it by being fully surrendered and wholly embraced by His plans for you. And that begins by running to Him.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/kieferpix
Amber Ginter is a teacher-turned-author who loves Jesus, her husband Ben, and granola. Growing up Amber looked for faith and mental health resources and found none. Today, she offers hope for young Christians struggling with mental illness that goes beyond simply reading your Bible and praying more. Because you can love Jesus and still suffer from anxiety. You can download her top faith and mental health resources for free to help navigate books, podcasts, videos, and influencers from a faith lens perspective. Visit her website at amberginter.com.