Faith for the Messy Middle

Christine Caine

by Christine Caine

Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.



“You have plantar fasciitis, Ms. Caine, and if you want to keep hiking, then you’ll need to do exactly as I say.”

Listening to the podiatrist, whom I’d known for less than an hour, I needed no convincing. I had been increasingly unable to bear weight on my foot. Never had I felt such stabbing pain in my heel. I was willing to do whatever it took to get out of pain and to keep hiking mountain trails. What started as a way to get out of the house and see the great outdoors had grown into something God used to teach me, train me, and build his endurance in me. But with all the hiking came injuries.

“Plantar fasciitis is when the thick band of tissue connecting the bottom of your heel to your toes becomes inflamed,” the doctor said, pointing to a diagram showing all the bones and tendons in my foot.

As he went on talking, all I could focus on was that diagram…and that long stretch of tissue all the way down the middle of my foot. Why is it that what’s in the middle of everything is the most important part? Why is the middle of everything the hardest part? Why can’t we go from the beginning of anything and jump to the end, skipping the middle altogether?

Don’t Get Stuck in the Middle

The middle is that place you reach when you’re not where you were, but you’re not where you’re going, and you have to keep going to get where you’re going. It’s when the novelty has worn off. It’s when life gets hard.

Spiritually, I’ve felt the middle so many times. When it felt unbearable. When all that my heart and soul wanted to do was quit. And yet, God is still using me because I found a way to keep going through the middle, particularly all the mini-middles along the way.

Somehow, continuing to climb mountains and work through hip-flexor pain and heel pain felt much the same—even when every ounce of my 57-year-old body reminded me I had plenty of reasons to quit. Still, I wanted to keep going. I wanted to make it through the middle.

Did you know that when serious runners train, they train for the middle? The middle of any race is the hardest. It’s where a runner begins to run out of energy, strength, and the mental focus to keep going. Whether a sprinter or a distance runner, if they don’t make it through the middle, they won’t make it across the finish line. It sounds so simple, but it requires strategic training to succeed.

Spiritually, isn’t the middle what we’re in training for during much of our lives? Someday, when I finish my race, I want to be able to say like the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) But to do that, I first have to get through the middle. To get through the middle—of everything—we will need endurance. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “You have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)

Train to Finish Well

Endurance is defined as “the ability or strength to continue despite fatigue, stress, or adverse conditions.” It’s the capacity to bear up under difficult circumstances. The power to withstand pain or hardships. It’s a hopeful fortitude that perseveres to the end. In the original Greek language of the New Testament, it is hupomone, a compound word that translates “to remain under.” It is a quality built by remaining under pressure—something our natural inclination wants to run away from—and it seems to hit us the hardest in the middle.

In the middle of our friendships.
In the middle of our dating relationships.
In the middle of our marriages.
In the middle of our parenting.
In the middle of our education.
In the middle of building our careers.
In the middle of an illness.
In the middle of a transition.
In the middle of something we’re hoping and praying will happen.
In the middle of waiting on answers.
In the middle of anything is where it’s the most tedious, the most difficult and utterly wearisome.

It’s where we’re most challenged. It’s where all we want to do is quit. But if we will build endurance—that strength the writer of Hebrews told us we would need—if we will train ourselves from the Word of God, then by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will have the wherewithal to make it through the middle. Not just one middle but every middle we will ever live through. And all the messy mini-middles along the way.