“therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2
So my half marathon was yesterday. WOW. What a difficult and amazing and painful and wonderful experience! The start of the race was pretty stinkin’ exciting. There was “get you all pumped up” music blaring at the starting line, people were cheering and taking pictures, and I was excited and jittery with anticipation. The first few miles were pretty easy, I was still fueled with adrenaline and I was surrounded by people just as excited as I was.
Along the way there were a few spectators, holding up signs for their loved ones or for complete strangers. Some of them said funny things like, “Good job, random stranger!!” or “that hill was pretty rough, huh?”. The signs made me laugh and their words of encouragement made me run a little faster. It was so interesting though to see the expressions on the faces of the spectators as they watched the runners. I am sure they were thinking to themselves, bundled up to keep warm and sitting in their lawn chairs, “wow, that looks rough, I’m so happy that’s not me”, but all I was thinking was I wish you could experience this too! Yeah, I’m sure pain and sheer exhaustion was written all over my face, but there was also excitement and pure joy! Could they see that too? Yes I was in pain and yes I was tired, but I was running the race! As a spectator all they could see was the suffering; they couldn’t see the purpose.
So often it has been so easy for me to look at people who are sold out for Christ, proclaiming His name, or fighting injustice and say, “Oh that’s really great what they’re doing, but it looks like it could be pretty difficult and maybe even a little painful. I’d rather just watch them from here and cheer them on.” I hesitated to get involved, to love fully, to give more. But it’s so hard to see from the sidelines the joy and the purpose and the wonder that comes when you are walking intimately with God and following Him and working for His purposes.
There came a point about 10 miles in where it started to get significantly harder. I don’t know if it was my adrenaline running out or my joints getting tired of pounding on the pavement for an hour and a half. My knees were killing me and muscles were screaming. At a few points I was literally begging God to take the pain away because I didn’t think I could keep going. But He didn’t. But I kept running. My legs were hurting so bad. I was sick of running and I wanted to give up.
But a verse came to mind. 2 Corinthians 12:9, when Paul has been pleading with the Lord to remove some thorn, some pain or calamity from his life… “but He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” How many times do I beg the Lord to rid me of some weakness in me, or some painful situation that I don’t want to have to deal with? Let me tell you. A lot of times. And how frustrated do I get when He doesn’t remove it? It is so easy for me, from my limited perspective, to think that it’s not fair or good. But God, in His infinite knowledge and from His eternal perspective and in His absolute goodness sees that this momentary affliction is serving a greater purpose. Not only in my life, for my personal sanctification, but for His eternal and glorious and wonderful purposes.
Overall, the race was such an incredible experience. I did something I’d been wanting to do for a long time, I felt pretty accomplished, and I even got a pretty cool medal. But God also taught me so much. It was such a wonderful, humbling experience. In the weeks leading up to my race and in the race itself I learned so much about intentional and dedicated prayer… and how bad I am at it. I realized the depth of my weakness and my absolute need for Jesus. I learned so tangibly that in all things – in the pain of running 13.1 miles, in the orphanages in Haiti, in the sex-trafficking rings in Moldova, in the brokenness and darkness of the world – God is still good.
See, the incredible thing, the reason that we, as Christians, are able to rejoice even in these things, is that God Himself came down to run this race with us. Christ endured all of these things – the heartaches, the physical pain, the emotional strain, the spiritual emptiness – so that we would have hope. So that we would have confidence in the fact that even though we are weak and wrong and inadequate, He is strong and right and good. And He took on our weaknesses so that we could be brought into relationship with the most high God.
WOW. That’s news worth running the race for.