This is a marathon; this is not a sprint.
I’ve heard this phrase a lot this year. I’ve heard it related to Covid. I’ve heard it related to friends who have some serious health issues. I heard it related to the systemic racial issues that need to be dealt with once and for all in our country. This is a marathon; this is not a sprint. It even held true in my family’s search for a new home that has taken a better part of this year so far. These trials are indeed marathons and not sprints. When you’re running a marathon, you’re in it for the long haul. You trained for it. You don’t quit, even when it’s really hard. It feels so long, but you find ways to continue to put one foot in front of the other, because, gosh darn it, you’ve come this far and you’re not going to stop now. You run to finish. There is a sweet victory medal on the other side of that finish line.
For me, road races are hard. Especially marathons. But the harder and longer it feels, the sweeter the finish. While it pains me to write that, it is truth. I have run several marathons, but the one that stands out the most to me is the one that was the hardest. Each mile seemed to get longer and longer. I questioned at one point if I would even finish. I was frustrated. I thought I was well prepared. But it just happened to be an “off” day for me. I talk about that race finish more than any other I’ve ever run. The fact that I crossed that finish line after the struggles I endured all throughout the race was the sweetest victory to celebrate.
And whether you’re a marathoner, or even a spectator, there are key things that make the experience:
Do not underestimate the importance of training well.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4) We will continue to face trials throughout our lives, but these trials build us stronger, further equipping us to tackle the next obstacle. And we have the best coach at our side through it all – the Lord. When we lean on the Lord, He refines us and equips us for what is to come. The more you train and condition, the more ready you are. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) (Read “Lessons from God in Marathon Training”)
Nourishment is critical for staying strong.
The more we are in the Word, praying and talking with God, the more prepared we are to take on the challenge set before us. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…. (Acts 1:8)
Never miss a water stop.
They are the best when you’re running a long, hot race. The refreshment is needed to get you through to the next stop. Don’t we all need that sometimes? Encouragement from a friend, and verse from God… He seems to know just what we need when we need it. On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” (John 37:7)
My favorite part of running a race is the support along the way – the people on the sidelines cheering you on. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. (Matthew 18:20) They support you. They keep you going. Their “you can do it” and “run faster” chants fuel you on. You feel stronger and lighter because you know you have a support system there for you. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
You’re in great company.
Last, but not least, there are your fellow runners. There is a sense of community knowing you are not alone while running the race. Some may be faster than you, and some may be slower, but many have been where you are and/or understand what you’re going through. Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:7). You press on together toward the finish line, and if others finish ahead of you, they hold back and cheer you on to victory. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
I love this verse. Especially right now.
We have a choice with each day we’re given. We can wake up with a dread in anticipation of what might lie ahead – you know, those things we cannot control. Or we can approach each new day with a promise and hope that God will redeem whatever struggle we have, or that may come, before us. You see, He goes before us. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8). What’s in front of us is not too big for our Heavenly Father. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7). Regardless of what we’re going through, He will take care of us, and we are to run the race ahead of us, even if it’s a marathon. Therefore, since we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… (Hebrews 12:1).
While in a lot of ways, this year and the things we’re going through feel like a that hard, sluggish marathon, none of this is a surprise to God. I sit in deep gratitude that my “Coach”, my Heavenly Father who gives everlasting life far beyond the marathons we will run and the finish lines we will cross. I’d rather be running each race with endurance than not running at all.
Please join me in this special prayer:
Lord, I am so grateful that everything endured up to this point in my life is not a surprise to you. I am grateful that you are far bigger than any of it. I ask that you continue to give me the fuel I need to run the race set before me. And I give you all the glory for each finish line crossed, and each victory celebrated. I pray all of this according to the character of your son Jesus, Amen.
“The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:24)