I don’t understand runners. I understand playing a sport and being punished with running, but running simply for the fun of it is beyond me. And runners will often talk about the way it makes them feel afterwards - they talk about the adrenaline of the “runner’s high” - this has not ever been my experience. Running typically makes me feel like I would rather die soon. In the few times that I’ve tried to take up running, I’ve ended my running by walking into my house, with my heart pounding through my chest, and thinking, “What in the world did I do that for?"
My first experience with this kind of running was actually in fifth grade. Fifth grade was the first year we were ever allowed to sign up for sports at my school. I didn’t play soccer, so the only fall sport that was an option was a sport called, “Cross-country.” I signed up because I had been told that this would be a helpful sport if I wanted to play basketball in the Winter. And then I showed up to practice. And we ran. And we kept running. That was also my last day of cross-country.
Marathons take a certain kind of athlete and a certain amount of work and commitment. It’s strenuous, draining, and grueling. It requires perseverance and training. Throughout the scriptures in a few different places, the Bible actual describes life with this same kind of language. Life is called a race. We are called to “persevere" and “press on.” The same kind of feelings that are prevalent in a marathon.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a 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
At time life grows tiring. It requires that we endure through the trials. And other times it seems like we run through life right on pace. Some days we are celebrating the victories, joys, and personal bests. And other times we have to remind ourself to simply keep putting one foot in front of the other, pushing on for one more mile, one more week.
The runner Bill Rodgers said, “The marathon can humble you.”
Isn’t this true of life. Life humbles. It is exhausting. People disappoint you, let you down, and talk about you behind your back. Life wears you down. And this doesn’t change whether or not you are a Christian. Life humbles all, whether or not your hope is in Jesus. Life is tiring, it is exhausting, there will be pain and trials. As a Christian, you can still go to a job that beats you down, where you feel under-appreciated. You can give, give, give to your family only to have your kids disown you. You can pursue Jesus with all that is within you and still face pain, loss, and tragedy. Life will humble; it will wear you down, and for the Christian, in the midst of this grueling race of life, we look to Jesus with hope.
Hope that while we run the race, we can look to Jesus knowing that it doesn’t rely on us, but Him. Hope that while we run the race, we look to the one who ran the race before us. Hope that while we are exhausted and worn down, we look to the one who says, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened.” We run the long, tiring, difficult race and look to Jesus. We look to Jesus who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross."