Running has been somewhat of a passion of mine since I was little. Growing up in a family with 10 siblings, hardly a day passed by without someone challenging me to a barefoot race down our rocky country road. With that many siblings, it was hard to not be competitive, and I was always eager to accept the challenge.

My love for running followed me into adulthood, and I took up running again about 12 years ago. At first, running was nothing like I remembered it as a child. My lungs now heaved for oxygen and my legs felt like lead. My knees and ankles cried out in pain with every step. It was a very discouraging reminder that I didn’t have the physical endurance of a kid anymore–but I had the determination to run again, and I pressed on through the pain. Within a couple years, I was running 5-8 miles a day. Slipping into my shoes and going for a run was my temporary escape from the cares in my life. It just felt good. It made me feel free.

A couple years ago, my world began to unravel, and then it suddenly came crashing down all around me. My instinctive reaction was to turn and run in the opposite direction as fast as my emotional “legs” could carry me. But every time that I tried to run, I heard God gently whispering to me; “It’s okay, I’m with you. Just be still.” At the time–I couldn’t understand. How could I be still when everything in my world was falling apart and everything within my emotional being was screaming “RUN!” But the emotional pain in my life left my mind so numb that I had no idea where to go or what to do. So, I planted and steadied my feet in determination to endure the storm that raged all around me. I was terrified, but with God’s help, I stood still while trusting Him to lead me through the storm and to a safer place.

A couple days ago, God gave me a snapshot of myself walking along a mountain path and a big black bear stumbled onto the trail ahead of me. When the bear noticed me, it raised up on its back legs and towered above me. I froze in my tracks and without hesitation I threw my hands into the air to make myself look bigger and more threatening–I didn’t run. I learned that cowering or running from a bear is not the wisest thing to do. If you cower or run, the bear may think that you are prey and pursue you for its next meal. Instead, you should make yourself look as big as possible and make lots of noise so that the bear will hopefully become afraid and flee.

Hands raised and and making noise, I thought, is also a posture for worship. Exodus 14:14 popped into my mind: “The Lord will fight for you while you keep still.” I realize now that when I was trying to run from my trials in fear, I was giving the enemy the opportunity to pursue me as “prey.” (1 peter 5:8) I know that I am no match for Satan in my own strength, just like I am no match for a bear. But the “bears” in my life are also no match for my Heavenly Father. So when I stood still and trusted God to fight for me, Satan had to flee and I was able to continue on my journey.

With God’s help, I’m learning to run in a new way. I’m learning to not run away from Satan in fear, and I’m learning how to run towards God in faith. And when I encounter the “bears” that step into my path, I know now that it’s okay to just be still, raise my hands towards God, and allow Him to help and protect me.

Right now, my spiritual legs still feel very heavy, my lungs often struggle for air, and I’m still trying to fight through the aches and pains of learning how to run again. But each day I feel more and more freedom and strength as I press on towards the prize that God has in store for me.

This blog was written by Jana Shupe.