It’s Not How You Start. It’s How You Finish

Sharon JaynesA Sudden Glory, Balanced Living, Prayer 75 Comments

I sat by her bed.

Her hand swollen…full…unmoving.

Feet that danced just a few weeks ago now stilled. Arms that lifted just a short time ago now limp. Words that spilled easily just a moment ago now halted. How could life seep away so quickly, right before my eyes?

Mom was ready. But I wasn’t.

On a July morning, ten years ago, my mom called to tell me she was going to the emergency room. She had abdominal pain and couldn’t stop throwing up. I had just been at her house four days before, and this was something new.

“She has an ileus,” the doctor explained. “Part of her intestines have stopped working. But her heart isn’t strong enough to survive surgery. If her intestines don’t start working on their own, she will die.”

Four weeks into the sitting and waiting, it looked like Mom was going to get to go Home. Not to her little brick house in the colonial neighborhood…the one with cedar shingles, cobblestone street, and white picket fence where she had lived for over 25 years, but her home in a celestial neighborhood with familiar faces, golden streets, and the presence of God. Mom was ready. She had been planning the party for quite sometime.

I gently held her fluid-filled hand. Sky-blue eyes looked off into the distance. Her mind replaying bits and pieces of life.

“Mom, whatcha thinking about?” I asked.

“It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish,” she whispered.

“Who told you that?” I asked with a knowing smile.

“You did,” she replied.

“I love you, Mom.”

“I love you more,” she countered.

Mom had regrets. We all do…if we’re honest. But she finished well. She had made sure that her grandkids, extended family, and I knew we were loved. She had made preparations of her passing as easy as possible for me, the lone child responsible for all the details. She loved Jesus and was thrilled to get to see Him face-to-face.

The last week of her life, I was having a bit of a crying spell. Mom had requested the doctors remove all the machines, all the tubes, all the medications. “Comfort care.” That’s what they called it.

“Well Mom, it looks like you’re going to get to see Jesus before I do.”

And in a quick wit that served her well to the end, she teased with a twinkle in her eye, “Are you jealous?”

And to be honest…I was.

We never know when our last day on this earth will be. But here’s what we do know—we have a choice right now, today, to finish well. Your new start to the finish could begin today. Regardless of your past mistakes and missteps, weakness and failures…regardless of how you started this race, you can decide to begin your finish well.

Paul wrote to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV). We don’t get to choose when we will cross the finish line, but we do get to choose how we run the race today.

Lord, I have made so many mistakes in my life. A trail of regrets lie behind. But  I’ve chosen to leave them behind and not carry them into my future. No matter how I started, I pray that You will give me the wisdom and the power to finish well by loving others and leaving all bitterness and regret behind. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Paul wrote: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1NLT).

What is one thing you need to strip off and leave behind in order to finish the race well? Leave a comment and let’s share.

DIGGING DEEPER

This story was taken from my book, When You Don’t Like Your Story: What if Your Worst Chapters Could Become Your Greatest Victories. Even though you may have some chapters of your story you’d like to rip out, learn how to give those pages to God and allow Him to make them into something amazing. You don’t want to run the race carrying baggage of past wounds and mistakes on your back. Let’s throw off everything that slows us down and run the race well!

Also includes a study guide in the back.

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Comments 75

    1. This was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes this morning. Thanks for sharing. It has been a season of growth hurt pain and betrayal and God has been with me just feel distant from others. And lonely. Please say a prayer for me. I need it today!

      1. Playing for you precious sister! I too understand all these feelings. May you know He is more than enough. His power is made perfect in our weakness. Love in Jesus 💕

      2. Praying for you this morning Shelley. I understand. Even though I have many friends and family I too feel that loneliness. Praying that God will fill that void and help us know where it stems from. Remember, HE loves us!!

    2. Beautiful, thank you, so relatable. Thank you for all the encouragement in that simple devotional reading. I too am a only child, it’s difficult in times of crisis. I’m very grateful for your encouragement yo start today in finishing well

  1. I have fear well im diagnosed with severe panic disorder agoraphobia ptsd I am scared I won’t be close enough or truly make it to heaven as I know I am not as close or have a daily relationship as I once used to but I know Jesus is the only Way to heaven

    1. Tausha, don’t let the enemy tell you that you are not good enough or close enough. Jesus loves you and is holding you close right now. Feel His strong arms around you. Know that He is with you – through all that you endure!

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      2. Ditto! In life we have our ups and downs. We may feel far away from God, but that’s the enemy speaking. Once we accept Jesus as our LORD and Savior He never leaves us. He is just as close as He was the day you received Him into your heart.
        If you feel distant from Jesus, it’s you not Him that has moved. He is faithful to the end! Forever and Always! During those times that we feel distant, all we have to do is say His name. Jesus. He is right there. I also find that picking up my Bible and beginning to read fills me with peace. The peace that He gives. Not the peace that the world gives.
        My sister in Christ, I pray that you will be filled with His peace.

    2. if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus died for you and accept Him as your Lord and Savior
      you will be saved and heaven will welcome you.

      1. Shelly I can relate to your feelings., but trust me things will get better. We have a loving God who will not leave you where you are. I’ve been there and I know. Our God is so merciful. There will be joy again.

    3. Jesus never let’s go of you. Even if you feel you are not as close He is always holding on. Just reach out to Him. Let the Holy Spirit intercede for you with groaning to deep for words. God Bless you.

    4. If you’ve accepted Christ Jesus as your personal saviour then you are automatically co-heir with Jesus and God’s child…God sees Jesus inside of you because Jesus died for our sins…no matter what we’ve done..God sees His son in us. Jesus paid it all..your past, present, future sins are forgiven if you confess your sins and repent..

    5. Tausha Our Lord And Savior loves you. He is our comfort. I struggle with anxiety and depression at times and the only thing that helps me is picking up my Bible and reading the word of the Lord! I need it and can’t live without it. Jesus has been medicine to my soul. HE is your medicine too. Hugs sister! Blessings!
      Godliness with contentment is great gain.

  2. As a runner I know that extra body weight can slow down my pace , make the run more difficult and can lead to injuries. I am carrying the weight of wounds of being hurt and betrayed by family that I wont let go. I think I am punishing them but I am hurting myself . Lord I give them to You and I pray for peace regarding this situation.

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    2. I’m doing the same. Not sure exactly how to stop that when they don’t acknowledge any wrong doing causing the hurt. How do you move on?

      1. Debbie, I understand. What has brought healing in my lidocaine regarding those who’ve hurt me deeply, is journaling. I’ve listed the names of those people and the wrong doing’s. I spare no details in my journaling. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me with the task. Once completed, I spread it out before the Lord Jesus and tell Him (He has BIG shoulders) about the pain. He understands completely because He’s suffered the same kind of rejection and trauma. I ask Him to heal my heart. I’m willing to let go of all the bitterness and grief to Him. I experienced much healing and peace when I’ve been thorough and tell Jesus that I’m willing to let go and forgive by faith not feelings because of His forgiveness in my life. God continues to help me in this manner when I go to Him alone. I let go and trust Him. ❤️❤️❤️

        1. Cindy , thank you for your advice and sharing your experience. You are right in that we’ve got to forgive but we don’t always forget. It’s hard to pretend everything is back to normal when we are together but I realize it is hurting me not them. I will do as you suggested and lay it before the Lord. Thank you.

      2. Debbie, I know this is so hard. I did this with my father my whole life. But don’t let your decision to forgive them and let the past (and even the present) go be determined by them. You are allowing yourself to be hurt continually by holding on to it. I finally forgave my father for abandoning us but it took me 40 years. When I finally let it go, it was me who was changed, not him. I found out after he died that he had kept pictures and articles of me my whole life and I didn’t know. Pray not that your family changes, but that you change your perspective toward them. It’s amazing what forgiveness does. They might just come around, too. God bless you, sister.

        1. Thank you for sharing your experience. It does help knowing others have had success in forgiving and the being able to release it. I will focus on the Lord and his forgiveness of me. Thanks again

  3. Thank you for sharing. Touched my heart as a mother and grandmother. May I always be the example God wants me to be with wisdom and grace.

  4. I continue to ask God to create in me a clean heart and to renew a right spirit in me as I struggle with a sister who has lied and talked our father out of our inheritance of a small portion of farm ground he had given to us and has since taken and given it (plus the majority of the ground first given to her)to her. My father idolizes his farm and she told him she needed all of it to survive. We know this is not true but it has been done and we feel so decieved and unloved. I need help navigating how to truly forgive and move on.

  5. In order to finish the race well, I need to strip off and leave behind guilt and sorrow and take on confidence in Christ and joy.
    Romans 8:1-“There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
    Nehemiah 8:10-“The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

  6. I so needed this today as a reminder that I can leave all my regrets behind and that my race is not over. God loves and cares for me and He will give me the power to finish well. Thank you Sharon

  7. Thank you for this , We lost mom yesterday and this was such a blessing to recieve, It was almost as if she was telling me she is ok . Such a devoted Christian woman she was. Thank you

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  8. What I need to strip off and leave behind are the many mistakes and regrets from the past. I wish I knew then what I know now.

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  9. This is such a touching story. Both of my parents were ready to be with the Lord. I’m praying for God to help me to prepared myself for the journey home. I’m grateful!

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  10. I need to let go my tendency to get offended easily which indicates to me a root of bitterness and pain. Forgive me God. Lord I give you my heart to heal so I can be free to love and be loved and not get easily offended.

    1. I like your point. Asking God to keep you from being offended so you can love others well.
      I’m a goood loyal friend and sister. When others fall short of my expectations its hard to let them back in. I’m very good at putting distance and not very good at forgiveness

  11. Thank you so much Sharon for this wonderful sharing about your beautiful Mom’s lines…”it is how you finish.” And the Scripture from Timothy. This is I think not just a coincidence for me to see your Tuesday Devotional. It is truly meant for me to see your reflections. So timely. Thank you so very much and GOD bless you and your whole family always!

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  12. Sharon, this is so good! As hard as it is to lose our loved ones, it’s made easier by knowing where they are going. And goodbye is just ‘ so long for now’.

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  13. This really started me to thinking.. I am contemplating divorce from my husband. I have endured so much and have hung in there because I wanted to do what God said. Stay to gether for better or for worse, in sickness and health until death do us part. But I’m not whole. I’m sad all the time and heartbroken. I want to finish well but I’m tired. I want to endure till the end but u feel like I’m in this alone and that I am the only one fighting. He was in rehab and has now finished the program but he found a transitional home to go to and a job where he is and has not returned home. I’m lonely. He never calls unless he wants me to do something for him. He goes out with others. He communicates with others. This race has been long and hard. I want to finish strong and I’m trying to be patient. Don’t know what to do.

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    2. I understand. Similar circumstances! Its been years now but I am growing stronger in the Lord. I was expecting my husband to be like God and meet all my needs/heal all my wounds. He cannot. Idk what the future holds but while I wait I am focused on getting stronger emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I pray for you to have wisdom and peace and clarity. You are a precious daughter of the MOST HIGH GOD. He loves you with an everlasting love and he will never leave you or forsake you! Praise is a weapon I have found useful against the despair and loneliness. Take good care of yourself my sister.

  14. This verse in Hebrews is one that has recently ministered to me. For a lot of my Christian life, I have felt stuck & the sin that so easily tripped me up was selfishness, & thinking how things might affect me. There’s a lot of background to this which I won’t go into but through a series of incidents God took me through, He has completely set me free! I can’t describe the joy & peace that is my portion each day & I feel so liberated. Praise His Name!

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  15. Beautiful! My Mom passed away 3 weeks ago. My younger sister spent her adult years turning my Mom against me and my side of the family. I don’t remember the last time my Mom told me she loved me. It is so sad to see my sister consumed with so much hate and to know how she manipulated my Mom. I can only hope she is in heaven.

  16. My relationship with my parents really affects me as an adult and within my other relationships. I either cong to unhealthy situations are sabotage the ones that could be good. Especially the one with my mother. I have so much built up hostility idk what to do with it. Bring around her too long makes me feel an abundance of emotions

  17. My mom lived 13 years with Alzheimer. She died in March 2010. We lost a little of her every day. I cried for all those years. The day she passed away I rejoiced because Mom had been made whole again and have not cried since, Why because I knew as you said she had finished well.

  18. My body image. At some point during adolescence, I internalized the message that my self worth was tied into my body. In my 40’s now and having a difficult time “aging gracefully.” Fighting so hard not to base my worth on societal beauty standards but to let go and believe what God says about me so that I can be an example to all the women in my life who are younger than me.

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  19. Thanks be to Almighty God for His goodness, faithfulness and blessing upon us all.Also thanks for doing the work of God. You don’t know how many lives you had saved through your obedience and acceptance to do God’s will.May God Almighty continue to bless you more with wisdom, knowledge, understanding and dedication in Jesus Mighty name Amen. You are blessed child from God. 🙏

  20. My husband and I separated a year and a half ago (my choice) and I finally finalized the divorce on April 19. We got married sept 11,2014 on a lie ( unbeknownst to me at the time). He is in the USAF reserves and he volunteered for a deployment and told me it was mandated and he had no choice. He left Oct 2014 and I found out 2 weeks after he deployed that he had lied about the voluntary vs mandatory deployment. My heart was ripped wide open… I felt betrayed and tricked. He got home 6 months later and all was different. He said things change. I said we haven’t even had a honeymoon period. Well 10 years later and many more lies, manipulation and heart ache, I could not take any more. During the separation we attended counseling with different Christian counselors and spent time but nothing changed. He wanted what he wanted He is a narcissist (per counselors) and he truly fits the criteria unfortunately. God knows I’ve struggled making this decision afraid it was not His will but I was (still am) an absolute mess. What they can do to you and your brain is just unbelievable. I have a long healing journey ahead of me but I choose to trust in the Lord to guide me, walk with me, and help me. I need to forgive him, let go, and let God…. I have read most of your books and they have truly helped. Currently on my 2nd time reading “when you don’t like your story”. Thank you

  21. My daddy passed in my home where I cared for both my parents. After my being up 48hrs my oldest son and youngest daughter told me they were staying the night with gram watching over gramp. He was on Hospice. I reluctantly went to my room around 11, only to be started awake two hours later that daddy had passed. I believe he didn’t want me to be there. That he wanted me to remember his beautiful blue eyes sparkling from the previous day. Two years later my only brother passed, again I had left the hospital for the two hour drive home. He passed a few hours after I had gone to sleep. Three years later mom was too frail for me to keep her at home. Along with multiple health issues mom had Alzheimer’s. I made the dreaded decision to place her into extended care facility. Covid hit the region and doors were closed to all besides facility employees. Six weeks later mom was gone. Once again being with a loved one at the time of passing was taken from me.
    In 1976 I had a stillborn daughter taken from me, never being allowed to even hold her. I got a glimpse of her tiny body which after 48 years had faded to barely a memory. I look forward to my being called so I can hold each of them, especially my daughter. Thank you for sharing your love. Blessings!

  22. This is so encouraging! I cared for my mom in her later years and exclusively her final year with the help of Hospice. She met Jesus 2 years ago! I’m 63 and still trying to figure out how to end my race victoriously! I’m trusting God to show me His purpose/ will for my life. I care for my ailing husband and help with my 3 youngest grandchildren, but I feel there’s more for me to do. Praying for God to reveal it to me! Thanks 🙏 ❤️

  23. In Christ alone my hope is found. These are the lyrics/words, I repeat to myself, when the hefty weight of past mistakes and the guilt they bring forth weighs me down.
    I known in Christ I am forgiven! I just have difficulty forgiving myself. It is a daily reminder to me that God is still molding and shaping me, there is such beauty in that.

  24. Thank you Sharon for this today. I need to strip off past regrets and selfish mistakes I made when I was younger. I know God has forgiven me, but Satan keeps bringing to mind those things to make me think I’m not worthy and will never measure up. I have been saved since I was 13 yo. I’m 71 now and although I’m not where I want to be, thank God I’m not where I use to be! I strive to keep running the race and be like Jesus each day. God Bless you all sisters in Christ!

    Debbie L

  25. I need to accept and leave behind my husband and marriage of 30 years. He wants a divorce and left me for someone younger, again. I need to find a future without him.

  26. I hate to admit it, but I have road rage. I need to be more forgiving of other drivers. I tend to be a “rule follower” on the road and I get VERY indignant with non-rule followers. I need to give it to God and have more peace behind the wheel.

  27. I would like prayer to be set free of consuming sweets, I am a type 2 diabetic who has lost my mother to kidney disease, for some reason I am unable to say no to sweets, not sure why, but any prayer would be greatly appreciated.

  28. This was so touching. I had the same experience with my mother in-law, watching her slip away when moments before we were talking about watching one of her favorite shows together when she got home. Her eyes asked me to take care of her only son, my husband of now 14 years, she was ready to see her KING, but I was not, she was a sweet woman, whom I loved dearly, and I wanted to share so much more with her. Today, I ask in prayer that healing, comfort and strength is restored within my own family, there’s so much strife, bitterness, and tolerance and so little understanding, love and support.

  29. I am very touched by your story of your mom’s last days. It’s very touching about her and your faith in Jesus. So sweet.

    What i would strip off is my laziness, pride, and my know it all attitude. Also, my thoughts that are not pleasing to the Lord.

  30. Strip away all fear and hurt. God bless you all. I’m so thankful for you Sharon this really touched my heart. My mother passed away 2 years ago and she couldn’t wait to see our Father in heaven. God gave her 92 years on this earth, she loved us, loved the word, she was a true example of a Christian mother. I know where my Mom is and I know she is singing and rejoicing.

  31. Sharon, I so appreciate your writings and this one especially poignant for me. My mother would have been 93 tomorrow but passed at the young age of 66. Her mental illness made my life very difficult but I believe she is with Jesus now! I also believe God in His mercy has broken the cycle and my sister and I are both Christians. As a grandmother myself I pray for wisdom and to finish well. God is able!!

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