Anyone who knows me well and is reading the title to this devotional is now questioning if this is really me writing it. My mantra is, “If I am running, you’d better run too, because something is chasing me!” Running has never been my thing, but I have huge respect for those that do. I have been fortunate enough to work as a volunteer at several charitable 5Ks and marathons. I am always in awe that they keep going. They don’t even stop to go to the bathroom. They set their eyes on the prize and they never give up. Something else I noticed while volunteering: the runners dress very light. But at one particularly cold Marathon where I was volunteering, I began to notice that the runners were bundled up at the starting line, but then began shedding layers as they went. They thought nothing of peeling out of their Nike Dri-FIT shirts and just dropping them. There was a trail of discarded athletic wear down the entire race path. In order to make it the full length of the course, they knew they had to shed that extra weight to be as light as possible.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.
— Hebrews 12:1–2
As I read this scripture, I can’t help but think of what I saw at those races. The disciplined runners, shedding their weight with their eyes on the prize at the finish line. Not only do those runners have to shed the physical weight of their bodies and their clothing layers, but they have to overcome obstacles both seen and unseen: rocks in the road, uneven surfaces, blisters on their feet, muscles cramping, lingering injuries, and more. They have to train for months, even years, to prepare for the races. They have to prepare mentally, telling themselves they can do it, regardless of what the world or society, or even their own bodies tell them they cannot do. And then, they strive to beat their best time, every time they run. Their race is not over in a day, or a week, or even a year. It is a long commitment, spanning over a lifetime for many. It provides as much agony and defeat as it does victory, celebration and satisfaction. And for most, every win leads to a new goal, a new regiment of training, a new set of obstacles, and a new wardrobe that will soon be shed by the side of the road in an effort to move through the next race as light as possible.
Thinking of this while reading the text from Hebrews, the word endurance sticks out to me. A runner cannot do these things without endurance, withstanding an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way. Some synonyms for endurance are: tolerance, sufferance, bearing, and fortitude. Let’s face it. Life is difficult, much more difficult than I imagine a marathon to be. We were never promised that our lives would be problem free once we surrendered our hearts to Jesus. What we are promised is that Jesus will be with us every step of our journey, and that the finish line and prize we are running for is not of this earth. While we are on our earthly journey, running the race we call life, God does not want us to carry extra weight. He wants us to find joy in every circumstance. If we are to endure the path set before us, he wants us to travel light, by casting our burdens on him. He wants us to love and trust him to carry life’s weight for us, just like he carried the cross to free us from the weight of our sin. When we leave our burdens at the foot of the cross, our load is lighter and our endurance goes up. The finish line is closer and the prize looks so sweet when we travel light.
So friends, when life weighs heavy, burdens seem too much to bear, and obstacles seem to big to overcome–when the mountain is in your way and you are standing in the valley, my prayer is that you will lay your burdens at the foot of the cross, pick yourself up, dust yourself, lighten your load and re-fix your eyes on your heavenly prize, and maybe even help someone else up along the race course as well. Let’s all run with endurance, with our eyes fixed on Jesus!