I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
-Jesus (John 16:33)
As we continue to consider running (physically) as a metaphor for running the race of the Christian life, we've come to the time to talk about pain. Simply put, running hurts. Learning to run a longer distance will cause pain. For sure it will cause short term pain as muscles tighten, lungs struggle for air, the heart beats harder, and the knees take a pounding. For many (likely most) it will lead to injuries. (Some studies estimate as many as 95% of distance runners will face injury.)
As we run the race of following Jesus, some of us have heard or believed a message that if we just follow Jesus our lives will be fine . . . or at least on a consistent upward trajectory towards fine. Even if we dont think we believe it, we often do. It shows up it times when I feel let down because "I'm doing everything right and trying to obey God, but they still spoke that way about me." Or in situations like when "I sacrificed to follow you, Jesus, and now this is happening to my children."
When this happens we tend towards one of two beliefs.
The message of scripture says. No. Neither of these is true.
Trouble. Struggle. Pain. Suffering. They are a part of living in this broken world. They are not caused by God or by our sin. What God offers is hope - they are not the end of the story and he will make things right - and peace - his loving and understanding presence and comfort in the midst of our struggle.
He offers himself as our running buddy, comforting us and helping us heal when necessary and, when possible, helping us breathe through our pain and keep going on the journey.
If you are hurting today, God has not forgotten you. If you are struggling today, God is not judging you. This is a part of the journey and God is with you to help you towards the finish line.