Nine years ago last Monday, I ran my first road race. Eight months ago today, I finished my third marathon. But four months ago, the real race began. 
I have spent the last four months literally, and figuratively, having my heart tested over and over again.  
Physically, the aim has been to diagnose exercise-exacerbated chest soreness through an extensive battery appointments and tests culminating in a heart cath Tuesday which leaves me sidelined, even from lifting my daughter, for the next two weeks. 
So far, the results have been positive, in a sense. There are some issues my heart that go along with getting closer to 40 – some leaky valves and now, it appears, some slight narrowing of the arteries. So, as long as it’s monitored, I am not, God willing, going anywhere anytime soon. 
Hmm...God willing. 
These words carry a lot more weight and a lot less cliché now. I have spent a lot of time the last four months wrestling with my own mortality, at times not knowing what was going on in my own heart.  
This wrestling came with countless sleepless late-night desperate prayers – prayers about how I do not want to leave an amazing wife and beautiful daughter behind at 39. Prayers, frankly coming to the reality that I was not ready to leave life on this earth behind. 
But I have also arrived at a far greater awareness because of this just how little control I have over the number of days I have on this earth, and just how much control He does. And the better of I have come to understand this, the more true peace and comfort I have found in the trial. 
He’s opened my eyes to just how much blessing He’s given me, that before this I took far too little time to be truly grateful for – family, friends, His constant provision, and above all, simply the ability each day to draw breath – that is a huge gift I have far too often taken for granted. 
I have always believed each day the Lord allows us to draw breath we have a purpose far above ourselves. No matter how insignificant we believe our lives are, our lives – our stories – have a purpose far greater than ourselves. 
We draw breath to make a difference in our corner of the world with the selfless, sacrificial love of Christ. I think this is even more true when We are enduring what feels like an insurmountable trial – or a Mount Everest of insurmountable trials. 
The challenge is not to get so caught up on the “woe is me” attitude in the midst of trial lose sight of the reason we are still drawing breath on this earth in the first place.  We are here to open our hearts to the countless hurting people, show real compassion, and to, quite simply, make our corner of the world a better place than which we found it. 
So, let me challenge you, as the Lord has admonished me, if you draw breath today, regardless of the circumstances you face, make these goals your daily aim: 

  1. Remember the Lord created you, which means he loves you more than you can fathom. Even in the darkest moments, you are still a precious treasure to Him, and your heart matters to Him more than you realize. Whatever the pain, you can find hope and healing in Him. 

  1. Count – I mean REALLY count – your blessings. Begin your day focusing on the treasures God’s given you that cannot be measured in dollars and cents – air to breathe, family, friends, a place to live, clothes on your back, means to meet your basic needs, etc. If you really take time to do this, I promise you it will not take long to significantly outweigh whatever trial you are facing. 

  1. Open your eyes to pain. Don’t let your trials put blinders on to the troubles of others you can come alongside them and help ease through provision, prayer and encouragement. Step outside yourself and love others first. When you do, the Lord will provide the comfort you need. 

  1. If you are married, do whatever it takes to be a better, more compassionate spouse everyday. Remember, what is weighing you down is weighing them down too, and they need you as much as you need them. 

  1. If you are a parent, be a better parent each day. Don’t miss a moment to show your kids you love them. You never know how much time you have, make sure you treasure the little moments you do. 

  1. Invest real time in real relationships. Put down the phone, take yourself out of the screens, and have a real conversation or two each day. You never know how the time you invest can change the life of a friend for the better. 

  1. Let go of the little things. The little irritations in life don’t really matter in the scope of eternity, and all they are is a needless weight of bitterness, anger, and frustration that are not worth the weight they put on us when we carry them. 

  1. Forgive the big things. Drop the grudge and spend a little time understanding what makes your “enemy” hurt. Instead of letting this tear your heart and mind apart, reach out a hand of reconciliation and maybe give that cup of water instead of the ounce of poison. You’d be amazed the good you can do this way. 

  1. Be willing to reach out in your hurt. Believe it or not, there are people who care and who want to help, and who will help, if you are simply willing to ask. No one is strong enough to walk through life alone, so don’t try. Reach out a hand. 

  1. Don't hold too tightly to anything. Something you have today can make a difference in someone else’s life in ways you may not yet even realize, so whatever you have, however small it may seem, keep your eyes open and be ready to let it go to make someone else’s life better. A little can always be more than enough. Just ask the boy with five loaves and two fish. 

Finally, make your story count EVERYDAY. No matter how insignificant you think it is, what you’re walking through now will matter to someone else, and can offer them the hope they need to take another step, to take another breath, to persevere. Do this, and what you endure today will never be in vain tomorrow. 


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