During a marathon, runners can develop some gruesome injuries, such as bleeding blisters, black toenails, and debilitating muscle cramps. As discovered in a German medical study, focusing on this mid-race discomfort can actually increase pain signals from the spinal cord to the brain. This is why runners are encouraged to look outward, focusing on the ultimate goal of finishing. Christians, as well, will struggle if they focus on personal circumstances and not the ultimate prize of Jesus.
In the book of Esther, Haman, the highest official under the Persian king Ahasuerus, gets a royal order to annihilate every Jew in all of Persia. However, through the providence of God, a Jewish girl named Esther has become queen of Persia. Her uncle, Mordecai, asks that she go to her husband and plead for her people. Esther makes it clear unless one has a death wish, no one goes in to see the king without invitation. She says, “I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.” (Esther 4:11) Esther has lost favor with her husband, the king, leaving her just a lonely girl in a strange place. Esther looks at her personal situation and decides she’s no help to anyone.
Mordecai, who raised Esther, helps shift her focus away from her own circumstances and to God’s greater purpose for her. “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14) Instead of feeling helpless, Esther becomes a woman of action, asking all Jews to fast and pray for her and says, “I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16) Mordecai challenges Esther to see beyond her personal pain and realize to whom she belongs and whose purposes she serves; read the remainder of Esther to see the history-altering result.
In your marathon with Christ, what injuries are you focusing on lately, causing you to feel helpless? Relationship struggles? Financial woes? Job dissatisfaction? Those pains are part of life just as much as blisters are part of running, but they don’t have to keep us from finishing the race. As Paul says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) Pain calls us down, but Jesus calls us up.