Yesterday was the Boston Marathon, and for the first time in 33 years an American, Desiree Linden, won the women's division. There was a time in my life when I was up-to-date with who was who on the international marathon scene. I knew that I had heard of Linden before but I had to look online to learn more about who she was and how the race had turned out. And as I did so, I was surprised.
What surprised me was not that an American had won, but how slow the winning time had been. And when I looked at the men's results, I noticed the same thing. Slow times, perhaps not as slow for the men in a relative sense, but for both men and women the winning times, and the times for the top five finishers were far below the averages there. For a world-class race they were not what might be considered world-class times.
A little more investigation showed the cause of the slow times, and that was because the weather, to put it charitably, was atrocious. Cold, wet, and windy. Far from the conditions that can bring out the best from an athlete's preparation.
But even in bad weather, the race goes on, and someone has to win. So congratulations to those who ran yesterday, not just to the winners but to everyone who made it to the finish line. A marathon is a physically demanding event, and the conditions demanded even more out of the runners. But each of the finishers had what was needed, physically and emotionally, to persevere to the end.
As a Christian father I'm learning that the Psalms are a wonderful school for learning perseverance. We are currently reading the Psalms with our daughter, so each night at bedtime I read all or part of a Psalm and then we briefly talk about it.
Last night we read Psalm 85. So often in the Psalms the author is in great need from God. Sometimes the trouble has to do with other people, and sometimes it is of his own doing. And yet he understands God's character, and so he never lets go of God's promises. He continues to trust in God as he waits on God's timing for God to act.
God's word, in general, and the Psalms, in particular, train us for those times when life will be difficult. For those times in life when things move beyond difficult and into incredibly hard. The Psalmist hangs on to God as he prays for God's help.
That is the other great benefit to the Psalms, in that they model persistent prayer in the midst of challenging circumstances. Similar to Desiree Linden and all the other runners being prepared to varying degrees for the challenges they encountered in Boston yesterday, reading and praying God's word, prepares us to persevere, and even praise God, during all parts of our lives.
In Psalm 85:6 the psalmist asks:
"Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?"
That is a question that virtually begs an answer, for God is both faithful and unfailing in the promises he has made to his children.
In even the most difficult of times, God will revive his children. May we persevere in praising him in times of hardship, and continue to praise him when his deliverance comes. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.