Heather and I love to watch our kids compete in their various sports. It truly is a joy. Today was no different. In the fall, our son, Eli, runs cross country for Eureka Middle School, and so this morning we got the opportunity to watch him and the other Hornets run in a big cross country meet.
When he woke up this morning, he complained of pain he was having in his abdomen. He said it had started the night before. We prayed, told him to drink plenty, and he went on his way. The pain did not go away prior to the race, and once the race began, you could see the pain was significant for him.
He typically is toward the front of the race, but not today. Today, this was a different kind of race. Every time we saw him run by, the pain was clearly evident in his face and performance. Success for this race would not be defined by a medal or a personal record, but rather by finishing and not quitting or giving up. It would be defined by the ability to run through the pain.
We heard afterwards from Eli that he had a fellow teammate telling him throughout the two mile race…“Don’t give up. I’m right here with you. You can do it.” His coach telling him…“Don’t give up. God is with you.”
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not writing this blog post to brag on my son. If you know me, you know that is neither me nor my son honestly. That’s not my point. The reason I share this story is because of the parallels to our life and pursuit of Jesus. I know sports can be a massive idol at times, but other times, if you catch it, God can teach us something about life through them.
In life, we will experience pain. Jesus promised we would have trouble (John 16:33), and the thread of suffering and pain is really throughout Scripture. So to follow Jesus with your life is not assuming there will be no pain, but rather there will be pain, and how we respond to it makes all the difference.
If we run through the pain, our faith matures and deepens. And we run through it, knowing that our God has not forsaken us, that He is at work even in the trial, that He is still our living hope, and that through the trial, He is finishing the work that He has begun in us.
James 1:2-4: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
As we walked to the car, Heather and I told Eli that it is inspiring to watch him win and place in races and get personal records. But it is also, if not more, inspiring to watch him run through adversity, to overcome, and to run through the pain.
And so it as a Christ follower. It is inspiring to watch people experience the victory of following Jesus (overcoming sin, reconciliation of relationships, going public in baptism, etc.). But it is also so inspiring and encouraging, if not more, to walk with a fellow believer as they run through the pain. Whatever pain it may be. To see them persevere through the trial, to not give up, to keep running, and straining toward what is ahead.
So if you’re running through pain right now, “Keep going. Don’t give up. God is with you!” If you’re in Christ, the promises of God are sure and you’re not alone.
And if you’re not running through pain, then don’t forget that in Christ, we are made family. We are called to follow Jesus together, so as we run, we remind those around us who might be in pain, “Don’t give up. I’m right here with you.”