Back in middle and high school, when I played basketball, I was very concerned about who was watching. “Are my parents here yet? How about my grandparents? Are any of my friends here? Is that certain girl watching?” Those were the sort of questions I’d ask. Oddly enough, I always played harder when someone was watching. If no one special was in the stands, it really didn’t matter as much how well I did – or so I thought.
Today I ran my first half marathon. I trained alone. I ran the race alone. I finished alone. Initially, I felt that old mentality kick in, quietly saying, “This is stupid. No one cares how fast you finish or if you finish at all.” Fortunately for me, I’m not that kid anymore and I know a little better now.
I ran with Isaiah 41:10 on my arm, which says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Whether you know this verse or not, please let me tell you about it’s unbelievable, unshakable power.
“Fear not, for I am with you…” During the first 3-4 miles of the race, I focused on this portion of the verse. God’s presence drives fear away; He’s comforting, settling, and reassuring. To be in the presence of God is to finally have a grip on the fear in your life. This was so awesome to think about as I set out with 1,300 other runners on a course I’d never run, doing a distance I’d never quite done. Can you relate?
“Be not dismayed, for I am your God…” During miles 5-8, I thought of how there’s no reason to stress when God is your God. Money isn’t my god, nor is work success, or even family relationships. Running isn’t even my god. When those have been my gods, I cranked out dismay like crazy because you know, life is life. However, when God, the God of the Bible, is my God, things change and I don’t need to stress. Have you thought about who your God is?
“I will strengthen you, I will help you…” This one came at a very opportune time, around mile 9 or so when I had to pass over a very long bridge, going up a big hill. People were stopping to rest, cramp, and even throw up. As I looked at the top of this hill, I thought, “God, I haven’t been to the top of that hill, but you have. If you say you’ll help me, you’ll meet me at the top of that hill, won’t you?” Sure enough, God met me there. Any hills facing you in your life? Rest assured, God has already been to the top and set a table for you, as Psalm 23 tells us.
“I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Perfect for the last mile or so, when my body was not exactly holding up as well and, to be honest, my mind drifted to the reality that the finish line didn’t hold any elated embraces from loved ones. With my body and mind starting to break down, I thought, “Who holds me? Who’s really got me right now?” God’s righteous hand means that His perfection holds us up. He’s not a flawed loved one fighting His own battle or a member of this fallen, broken world. No, He’s perfectly righteous and has no imperfection in Him. This is something you can put your entire weight upon, which I did as I ran through the finish line. What’s propping you up?
My point? There are times when we seem to be running alone, when we’re racing hard, but we’re not surrounded by cheerleaders. It’s just you and your fight. Yet, if we refuse to listen to the enemy’s taunting, we realize we’re actually running for an audience of One and He cares very much that we’re racing and fighting. You know, He cares so much that He came here 2,000 years ago and fought His own battle, and yes, He too crossed that finish line on Calvary alone.