Romans 5:3-4 “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope.”
My husband, Allen, and I are training for our second ½ marathon (we ran our first one a little over 13 years ago, so we felt it was time to torture ourselves again). Anyway, for the past ten weeks we have been diligently hitting the treadmills or the streets, trying to prepare our bodies for the day of the race. We have scheduled our long runs to be on Sunday afternoon, and I have to say, I rarely look forward to them, as they have cut into my routine of church, lunch, and nap – not run! Nevertheless, a couple of Sundays ago, our training schedule had us making our first 11-mile run. I wasn’t looking forward to it!
As always, the first few miles weren’t bad at all, but once we hit mile 8, we certainly had to push ourselves to finish. Then, while we were closing in on mile 10, our run was unexpectantly interrupted. Allen had stopped, hunched over, and was grabbing his eye. I kept my feet moving (I feared if I stopped, I might not start again). I looked back at him and asked what was wrong. No answer. He was still stooped over, and I could see him rubbing his eye intensely. Now, a little worried, I jogged back to him; and once there, I knew my feet had to stop along with his. After Allen struggled with his eye, he finally regained his composure and was able to tell me what was wrong. Something had flown into his eye and stung it! I thought he had to be mistaken, bugs don’t fly into your eye and sting it, but he was right. Some sort of bug had flown in, out of nowhere, and landed on his eyeball and stung it – it was bloodshot and already beginning to swell.
I asked Allen if he wanted to stop or walk the rest of the way back (after all, he couldn’t see out of his eye), but he was determined to finish the run. We started back, slowly but steadily picking up our speed, and before long, we were finished. The pain in Allen’s eye was still there, and you could see the effects of the sting; but his vision had cleared up. We laughed at how odd that was – a bug flying around, that happened to land on and sting his eyeball. It was definitely an interruption we hadn’t foreseen and certainly one we couldn’t have planned on! I thought isn’t that what our life here on earth is all about? Those crazy, painful interruptions we don’t see coming. They hit us head on, skew our vision, and stop us in our run with Christ.
Over the past year, I’ve seen many of those stings in my circle of family and friends, as I’m sure you have – the sudden death of a loved one, the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease, the illness of a child, an addiction gone awry, the aftermath of a natural disaster, the loss of a job – the list goes on and on. And while Jesus is clear to His followers that we will face suffering on this earth, His foresight doesn’t make the hurt and the heartache go away. In fact, sometimes the wounds those stings leave on our lives are devastating, and we are left with a choice to pick back up and continue running with Christ or to stop the race all together. I’ve seen both choices made, and only one breeds hope and eternal life.
As Christians, we are told to rejoice in our sufferings (1 Peter 4:13) and to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds (James 1:2). However, how do we do that?! The answer – we can’t! We weren’t made to. But our Savior was. It is only through the power of Jesus Christ we can allow our “suffering to produce perseverance, perseverance, character and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4); and, therefore, “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). We must endure this life in order to reap the extraordinary benefits of the life to come. But that endurance must be sought. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us to “pursue endurance” (1 Tim. 6:11) – “endurance that is inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 1:3). Strong’s concordance tells us this word endurance Paul speaks of means “the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and suffering.” Read that definition again. Have you seen this type of spiritual endurance in action? Over the past few years, I have. I’ve seen it in men and women of faith who have prepared themselves for the stings of life through their complete devotion to our Lord and their unwavering faith in the hope He promises. How grateful I am to those who, through their pain and anguish, have given me a glimpse of our Father’s love through their loyalty to Christ!
Yes, we will suffer, but we suffer with hope. We continue running through the stings, and we endure the after effects – being certain that one day “He will wipe away every tear from (our) eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things (will have) passed away” (Rev. 21:4). What a beautiful picture we are painted of our eternal destination! In the meantime, through our tears and our heartache and our pain, we keep our eyes focused on the prize that awaits – assured we aren’t running this race alone. For we have a great cloud of witnesses running alongside of us, and the mighty power of our Savior within us. Thank you Lord. Thank you.
Until next week, running the race (stings and all)…Katie