I've been running now for over ten months. When I began, I hated it. With a passion. My lungs burned, my legs ached, and when I ran for more than two minutes I thought I might literally have a heart attack.
But I was told it would get better.
Your body will get used to it. You'll come to love running. It will be like therapy. You'll look forward to it. Before you know it you'll be running a half marathon.
The truth is my body still hates it. It hated running during the 7th grade President's Fitness test and it hates it just as fervently today. I still struggle to run 5K and I won't even embarrass myself on the interwebs and tell you how long it still takes me to run a mile.
Truthfully, I was hoping they were right. It would be amazing if I looked forward to running 5K several times a week as my "alone time" and my body thanked me for this "treat." But running on a 2.5' x 4' span of tread is simply not the joy I was promised (it's been hovering around -10 around here some days this winter so running + frigid weather = nowayI'mrunningoutinthat).
But since this isn't the case, my inner dialogue goes something like this: I must be doing it wrong. Maybe they know something I don't. Perhaps if I just Pinterest better running workouts/quotes/shoes I will like it better.
As I was struggling with my seeming failure as a runner, I realized the theme of "it will get better" didn't just appear in my quest to be a runner. Marks of "it will get better" were evident in other areas of my life.
Marriage gets easier: your communication will improve, their quirks won't bother you as much...
Parenting gets easier: they will eventually sleep through the night, you'll get to know their personality...
Life gets easier: you mature, time will heal...
It will get better.
Although there's some truth to be found in all of these statements and I appreciate the heart behind them, I've found that not only are these things not really comforting, but they're also not always true. I grew up believing that things would get better. That if I made the right decisions God would bless them.
If you don't drink or use drugs your body will be healthy.
If you choose to the right college your career path will be easy.
If you don't have premarital sex your marriage will be amazing.
If you tithe your bank account will always have enough.
If you raise your kids right they will choose to trust Jesus.
But my assumption that if I do things right, then things will get better/turn out the way they "should" is faulty at it's core. Jesus never promised us that things would get better. And the gospel in no way promises an easy life for those who make good or right decisions. In fact, we are promised the opposite.
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
In the world you will have tribulation. John 16:33
Of course this isn't to say that we shouldn't make wise choices about our lives like taking care of our bodies and devoting our careers and families to God. The Bible also makes it clear that there are positive and negative consequences for our decisions (Proverbs is full of them) and that his ways are always better and lead to life.
But what if we're looking in the completely wrong direction for things to get better? That instead of a body that easily runs a marathon it's about using our body to glorify and serve him. That instead of a marriage that's full of ease and "good communication" it's one that reflects selflessness, forgiveness, and redemption. That instead of a child that sleeps through the night or has good manners they learn that Jesus is better than anything this world has to offer them.
What if instead of things getting better and easier, God is more about forming a people who are more concerned about His kingdom than their own? What if our sufferings produce in us something of more value than things going smoothly? What if there's something to be learned in the struggle that we would miss if things were easy? What if instead of striving to do things better, work better, and be better, we relied on the One who promises to be better for us and offers us hope way beyond ourselves?
Let's acknowledge that things don't always get easier. That the hard and tough path is often the right one. That we can sometimes make all the "right" decisions and our lives can be fraught with hardship and suffering. That when things don't get better how or when we expect them too they are still worth our effort. Paul makes a bold statement in Romans 5:3-5:
...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.
What if we weren't looking for things to get better?
What if we were looking for suffering to produce in us fruit of endurance, character, and ultimately hope?
What if we look for Jesus?