Third year of college, Janice (best friend & apartmentmate) and I had the same class together that we always procrastinated for. The discussion section was in the morning and there’d be assignments due then. We normally finished those assignments and printed them out with just enough time to rush to class, but if we were late even 2 minutes, points would be taken off our section grade. One time, we cut it too close and had way less time than it normally took to get to class (for you Cornellians: 10+ minutes to get from our apt in Collegetown to our classroom on the 2nd floor/back of Kennedy Hall). I remember us trying to rush to class (uphill all the way btw!) and me stopping running just a quarter of the way through (again, for Cornellians, by the time I was the Engineering Quad, I was done. Haha.) I really don’t like running and was/am out of shape. And so [cue dramatic movie music] I stop running and start waving Janice to go ahead, saying “Janice!! Go on! Go on without me!” Janice, being the good friend that she is, was like “No! Come on! Let’s keep going!!” We made it to our section in RECORD time, no joke, and didn’t lose any points! Yay!
Great story, yeah? Haha. I was reminded of it this week because I’ve been reading Hebrews. Two days ago, as I read Hebrews 13 about running with endurance, not being discouraged as God disciplines us, etc., the call to persevere and endure in faith through suffering weighed heavily on me as I read. For some reason, as I read it just felt so…impossible. Of course, I know it’s impossible to heed the call to persevere in faith without Jesus Christ, our great high priest. He is the one that makes following him possible. But, as I read it, it still felt so heavy, almost an impossible burden.
A few hours later, I got a phone call from a sister in Christ who I don’t get to see or interact with often, but is like a kindred spirit to me. She was just driving and thought to call, and as we caught up, I was so encouraged. In her honest sharing, I saw the reality of the struggles and trials she was going through, but at the same time, as she shared, I felt like my soul was being refreshed. It was refreshing not because of her honesty in and of itself, but how in it, I could see her heart’s desire to trust and see God in it all. Not in a forced “yeah, yeah, God is still in control I know…” or “oh, I’m TOTALLY fine and everything is great because it will be okay in the end!” way, but in a way that flowed genuinely and naturally from the heart of a daughter of God- the way that quiet strength and faith shines forth in weakness. As we finished talking and started praying together, the Holy Spirit showed me what I’d been missing as I’d read through Hebrews.
I was reading Hebrews as if it was only written to me and as if I were living the Christian life alone. Of course, I know it wasn’t originally and only written for me, but I had forgotten that it was written to a community of believers and that I was also called to live in community. All of a sudden, so many of the exhortations in Hebrews started hitting me at a heart level:
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:12-14)
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV)
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. (Hebrews 12:15-16)
It’s so natural for me to read Scripture and think about life or the Christian walk from an individualistic point of view, but I’m so thankful that the reality is, I’m not called to walk alone. I am running this race with my husband, with my family, with other brothers and sisters in Christ. With this thought, the feeling of the burden in following and enduring has lifted up, and I look forward to pressing on and exhorting others to continue on as well. Though still imperfect and in the middle of our own sanctification, we encourage one another to keep looking to Jesus when it feels like it’s impossible to do so on our own. My heart fills with joy at this truth. What a great privilege and what a great calling.