Yesterday I ran an ultra-marathon. For my non-running readers that would be a race that is longer than the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Yesterday’s run was supposed to be 50 kilometers, or 31.1 miles. It was held on the trails in a county park, and trail courses are not always accurately measured. The GPS watches that several runners wore showed that the distance we ran was actually 32.5 miles, although none of us knew this until it was all over.
To put together a 31 mile race in a park the race director had us running several laps of a circuitous 10-mile route. There are some fairly challenging hills, all of which we ran multiple times. He also included a side excursion at the beginning to make the full 50k distance. But a long race over a hilly course, daunting as they could be, weren't the only challenges awaiting us yesterday. The weather was also a factor.
We have had a lot of rain over the past few weeks, including several inches the night before the run. While we ran in clear skies, it was over a course that was very wet. The side loop at the start was through a meadow that had spots of standing water. When we left that part and went onto the main course I thought that we were done with the wet spots, but it turned out that they were just beginning.
Over the next 30 miles we ran through standing water in grassy trails, through mud on trails going up and down hills, through water running over the trail as it came off the hills in sheets, through water running down the trail as it found the most direct route to the river, and through two spots where the lake adjacent to the trail was so high that lake water covered the trail.
A consequence of repeatedly running through all that water was that my shoes loosened and needed to be retied. I stopped three times to re-tie them and when one of them loosened again with just one mile left to go I altered my stride a bit and kept going, deciding I was only going to re-tie it if it came off my foot. The picture above is of my shoes after the race.
As a runner, yesterday’s race was an exercise in perseverance. The distance itself was a long one and the conditions were much more challenging than I had anticipated. Running three loops meant that I had the repeated opportunity to decide that enough was enough and just stop when we were close to the finish area. What kept me going was primarily a matter of my will. I continually decided that while the going, for the moment, was hard, that I likely had enough to keep on going until the end. And thinking about persevering as a runner led me to think a bit about perseverance as a Christian.
While running is primarily a function of my will, being a Christian and a disciple of Jesus is a function of God’s will. The Bible teaches that God has put a claim on us before anything was created (Ephesians 1:3-14) and that He has known every part of our lives before a single moment of our life came to be (Psalm 139:13-16). And best of all, He promises to see us through to the end.
In Philippians 1:6, Paul writes:
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Throughout the ups and downs of life, our joys, our failures, our moments of deep gladness and our moments of deep pain, God is holding us firmly in His hands. There will be times when we may be tempted by despair and want to quit but God is persevering, with us and in us, with a love that is eternal and unfailing.
In the challenging times of your life, when you feel the weight of life pressing down on you, may you know that you are always held in the hands of God, hands that will hold you both now and forever.
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.