Last weekend I accomplished a huge goal when I finished my first sprint-course triathlon. During the homestretch of the race and upon finishing and reflecting, I am in awe of the way that God prepared me in so many ways for this event.
When the Bible says that God goes before us and prepares the way for us, it is just so true, both in small and big ways. Let me tell you about all the ways that He prepared me for this race physically, mentally, and spiritually.
As I finished the swim and transitioned to the bike, I took a sip of my Gatorade and strapped on my helmet. Approximately 35 minutes later, I had the protein bar that I had stuffed in my pocket. I was prepared for the physical refueling that I would need to do in the long race. I was wearing and using all the proper gear and was blessed with the resources to obtain them. I also listened to the advice of my personal trainer (my husband) and others who had triathlon experience. On the day of race, I had made all of the right physical preparations.
Not to mention, I had prepared by training for six weeks leading up to the event to be able to swim the distance in the lake (500 meters), bike (13 miles) and run (3 miles). The last few days, I had prepared by “tapering” so that my body would be well rested for the race. As a result, during the race, and especially with my adrenaline pumping, I finished each event at a faster pace then I had trained! By the last event, the run, I started just praising God. He prepared me for this race in every aspect. I trusted the physical training plan, and I was prepared.
While the physical training for the swim was done in the pool, during the triathlon I would be swimming in lake. From what I had heard, swimming in the lake is much different then the pool, and would be a whole new trial in itself. I needed to be mentally prepared.
Five days before the race, my husband and I drove out to Clinton Lake. Goggles and all, I set out for an estimated distance comparable to that event in the race. Probably about 100 meters out, I had a complete mental breakdown. I turned over on my back and as I was floating in the water, doubting myself, and questioning what I had signed myself up for. Fortunately, I had the mental capacity to realize that I was freaking myself out. In that moment, I did not trust my preparation. I fought to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I identified the mental lapse, slowed down my breathing, and continued my stroke toward the goal. Every time I looked up and the end point seemed so far away, I had positive self-talk. Just keep swimming. Focus on my breathing. I will finish. Stay on course. I am prepared for this. And sure enough, I finished. I reflected and talked with Kevin about what I had experienced mentally. I knew that I needed to have a disciplined mindset going into the swim on Sunday. I prepared.
The night before the race, I was expressing some doubts and fears to Kevin. I mentioned something along the lines of, “I’ll just look at the race like the hardest workout of my life.” Kevin responds, “I guarantee, you’ve done worse.” I pondered what he said, and suddenly I had flashbacks to the most awful workouts that I ever encountered during my time as a college athlete. I remembered when we had a military-like organization called The Program come in to take us through three days of complete mental and physical exhaustion to make us overcome adversity and come together as a team. That included treading water for 3 hours in a wet sweatshirt. That sucked. I’ve done worse. I remembered some of the worst sprint and stadium workouts where I ended in my own puke. That sucked. Yeah, I’ve been through worse. If I did some of those workouts and survived, this triathlon would be a breeze. Zooming out and thinking about the big picture of hard workouts and trials in life helped me to be mentally prepared for the race.
Lastly, the morning of the race, I woke up at 5:00 am with a pit in my stomach. And still, that was nothing new. I had to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning with a pit of anxiety in my stomach 3-5 days a week during every fall semester of college for off-season training. I was quickly able to disregard the feeling and almost laugh at it. Wow, how God had prepared me mentally for this!
I meditated on Scripture and prayed before and during my race. I was reminded of one of my favorite verses, Colossians 3:23, that says whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, and not for men. I envisioned myself running the race of life marked out for me with Jesus at the finish line. It made me run faster. No joke. I want my life to be a pursuit of that finish line.
I had presented my fears and anxieties to God, and my doubts to God, and I was running the race as a testament of my faith in Him. I was seeking to Compete for His glory.
The Bible says so much about being prepared. I was curious, so I looked up the word in the Concordance in the back of my ESV Bible. Instead of working these in the post like I normally do, I just want to list them in the order that they appear in the Bible. I ask that as you read them, if you have a Bible in text or on your phone, and a journal or a piece of paper, to also read them on your own or write them down to reflect on later. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide this time for you so that God might speak to you in your own life about the ways that He is, and is wanting, to prepare you.
Psalm 23:5-6 “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
All of Psalm 23 is so great. Read the entire passage if you get the chance. God prepares us for our enemies, whether people or situations, in a way that makes us overflow with thankfulness. We overflow with joy in the presence of the Lord in light of any bad circumstance we could come in contact with.
Matthew 25:34-40 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me … Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did to me.”
Jesus is telling a parable here. God has prepared His kingdom for us since the foundation of the world, but it is still a day-by-day surrender to follow Him and trust Him in the way that He has prepared. He wants us to live a life that’s glorifying to Him and to reach out to the poor and the lost in His Name. We must trust His preparation, not our own. We must “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and all else will be taken care of (Matthew 6:33).
John 14:2-6 “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going…I am the way, and the truth, and the life…”
Jesus is talking here. He goes before us and beside us. He is preparing a place in Heaven for those who follow him. He is The Way to that place.
1 Corinthians 2:9 “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Wow. What does God have prepared for those who love Him? We can’t even fathom.
2 Corinthians 4:17 “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Even the bad circumstances in life prepare us for God’s eternal weight of glory! All of our circumstances are transient, or temporary, and will pass away. But it’s all a part of the process that God prepares us for. That is amazing utterly amazing.
2 Corinthians 5:5 “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
The “this very thing” in this verse is referring to an eternal life with God. God prepares us for a life with Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. As long as we have the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are guaranteed to get to that place. The question is, then I suppose, is the Holy Spirit guiding your life? (Remember that the Holy Spirit is Christ in us when we have confessed our belief in Jesus as our Savior. He guides us through prayer, the Bible, a community of believers, etc.)
Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Good works doesn’t save us. We cannot earn our salvation. We are saved by grace through faith! However, God prepared us to do good things that are glorifying to Him and He wants us to walk in the way that He prepared. Good works don’t come as our own effort. They come by the power of grace and faith in Jesus.
1 Peter 1:13 “Therefore, preparing your mind for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Mental preparation. We are to be prepared, mentally, for action. We are to set our minds on Christ, because He is our hope. We are to prepare our minds to trust God’s preparation for our lives, not matter what that looks like.
1 Peter 3:15 “…always being prepared to make defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
God calls us to be prepared to fight for Him. He is the reason for the hope that I have. I want to study His word and seek to know Him more intimately so that when someone asks me why I am the way that I am, I can share Jesus with him or her in an authentic way.
Revelations 21:2-4 “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”
This passage is from the book of Revelations, which is a prophetic book about the end times and what life will be like when Jesus returns. It’s going to be like a wedding ceremony between Jesus and His church. That is the utter joy and intimacy. Everything will be made new. The church (us) will be prepared as a bride. I think to my own wedding day, and all of the preparations I made to become not only a wife but also a bride (…but literally, months and months of wedding planning and pre-marriage counseling…). Actually, this passage was read at my wedding ceremony! So I could go on and on, but again, we are prepared by God in the biggest of ways, and beautifully prepared too, like a bride on her wedding day.
This is a lot and a long entry, so if you made it all the way through, then I commend you! While you may never hear the word prepare the same, I encourage you to trust God. He has prepared you for whatever you will face today, or tomorrow, or next year, or in life. He is also preparing you for an eternal life with Him. Trust the preparation.