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What mother would say, after hours of exhausting labor, when she’s nearly ready to push the baby out into the world, “This is too much.  I’m giving up”?

What marathon runner would decide to sit down yards away from the finish line after enduring nearly 26 miles of roadway under their hot, tired feet?

What painter would visualize and paint for hours and then leave the painting unfinished, a portion of the canvas still white and empty?

If you’ve gone that far, you may as well keep going until you finish!  The mother definitely has to finish.  There’s no way that baby can stay inside of her and survive.  There’s no turning back once that process is begun.  The way she keeps going when she is weary or hurting is to think of the newborn baby she will soon hold, the joy of bringing a life into the world, the pride of surviving childbirth and joining the ranks of millions of women throughout history who have done the same thing.  When these thoughts surface in her heart she resolves to lean into it and get through to the end, to the wonderful result of seeing her new son or daughter.

A cancer patient braves harsh chemotherapy and radiation because they see through the nausea, tiredness and long days to the hope of being cancer-free, of killing all those unwanted cells and feeling healthy again.  Would they take a few treatments and then stop?  Not if they want the most effective, thorough results.

Lately I’ve had the image of my God, my Heavenly Father, as a blazing fire and He’s calling me to lean into Him.  Through weeks of praying and trusting, I’m still in process.  I’ve had such peace, but I’m also pretty tired and there have been times I’ve cried out to Him, “I’m done.  I can’t do this anymore.  I want out.”  I’ve heard his loving voice telling me to keep leaning toward Him, drawing closer, even though I feel the burning, intense heat of His refining presence on my heart.  As I lean into Him, I can see through Him to promise and hope – hope for a heart more like His, more pure, more compassionate, more holy, more faithful.  The good of the refining He’s done so far will be lost if I give up and shrink back.  There is only onward and forward, no backward, no staying put.

Set your eyes on the end result God is promising You when He’s calling you to lean into His refining fire.   Although God is rich in love and grace, He is also a hurricane of power and purpose.  He is no little, safe god that pampers or coddles us.  His love is a tough love with your best in mind – your ultimate best – “beyond this life” best. You have to intentionally fix your eyes straight through the time of waiting, or pain, or discouragement, or frustration.  One small moment of relief or comfort can never compare to the joy of making it through to the end of a difficult task or time in your life.  Lean into it.

“…let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’ ” Hebrews 12:28-29

“Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. He endured the shame of being nailed to a cross, because he knew that later on he would be glad he did. Now he is seated at the right side of God’s throne! So keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners. Then you won’t get discouraged and give up.”  Hebrews 12:1-3