Running This Race of Life

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

A recent podcast by author and speaker Andy Andrews told the story of a long jumper named Bob Beamon. According to Andrews, Bob Beamon was just an average long jumper, as far as world champion competitors are concerned at least. In the 1968  Olympics, held in Mexico City, Beamon broke the Olympic and World records by – get this – almost 2 feet! Twenty-one and two-thirds inches to be exact!

Can you even imagine? Olympic records are broken by fractions of seconds or inches, not by feet! How did this young athlete break the record by such an extreme?

As the story goes, a fellow competitor and world record holder, who usually out-jumped Beamon, came up and whispered an encouragement in Bob’s ear just before he started the run to jump. He said, “Give ’em 2 inches on the front…take 2 feet when you land.” And Bob did just that!

Often in our lives we face challenges. Not insurmountable challenges, but challenges that  overwhelm us and leave us feeling defeated. Perhaps we can learn something from this record-breaking athlete.

1. Prepare as if it all depends on you. Olympic athletes train diligently for months and years. Are we living our life as if we are in training for the purpose for which God has put us here? Are you growing in the Word, in faith, in prayer, in service to God and men, in love? Are you growing in your talents, skills, and field of expertise?

2. Live fully. Immerse yourself in this race of life. Bob was in the race. He competed with varying degrees of success. Today we often view challenges as win or lose. I’ve heard kids’ coaches say “second place is first loser.” But that’s a lie. Second place to Bob Beamon in that Olympic event could have broken a previous world record; Bob just broke it by more. We must quit viewing life’s challenges as “all-or-nothing” and should instead take the advice of Hebrews 12:1-4:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.

*************************************************************************************

We must choose to run this race with purpose and endurance without giving up.

*************************************************************************************

3. Listen to uplifting words. Surround yourself with people who speak God’s Word and grace and truth into your life. We must choose not to listen to the negativity and ill-will  of the worldly society, nor even the pessimism and humanistic tendencies of well-meaning church friends. The words spoken into Bob’s ears spurred him to go beyond what he had ever dreamed possible. That is what God’s words of truth and grace do to our hearts.

4. Run the race believing that you can do it. We are capable of so much more than we believe we are. But we have an enemy that whispers lies into our ears. He tells us we are failures, that our desperate situation will never change, that we have sinned too much, that we’re dreaming too big, or, more subtly, he tells us just to give up, it’s useless. But I say – Believe God! He has a plan for you; it will succeed. For with God nothing is impossible! (Matthew 19:26)

Bob_Beamon_1968bThis week as you face the “im”possibilities of life, take a moment to recall Bob Beamon. If no one is around to speak those words of encouragement to you – speak them to yourself! Do as the psalmist David did – encourage yourself. Speak scripture to yourself. Play praise and worship music. Tell yourself the truth of God, don’t repeat the lies of the enemy even in your mind.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:11

 

Check out pictures of Bob’s famous jump here.

 

 

 

Until the Cloud Moves

“The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

 Our power had been out for hours. As my husband walked in the house that night, the silent darkness became a fitting metaphor. I knew weeks before the black cloud of despair and anxiety and depression had descended. My precious husband, former Marine and high school football and wrestling coach, and now successful business owner, the strongest person I know, was broken. He was soul weary and in such deep agony of heart it overwhelmed him, and me.

adult-couple-dating-951290.jpgWe sat at our kitchen table in the dark for a long, long time. I held his hands. He spoke broken sentences about fear and failure and sadness and worry. But much of what he communicated, even in the heavy blackness was too agonizing for words. Psalm 77:4 says “I am so troubled that I cannot speak,” and that is exactly where he was. There was nothing I could do but cry out to God on His behalf. The more he expressed his despair, the more the Spirit of God reminded me of truth—the reality of living on these earthly shores is suffering, but God is not a God who is far away, He is a God who is near.

After we wept together and he surrendered his wounded heart, I asked him quietly, “Can I pray for you?”. He nodded through tears. As I prayed over him and our tears splashed on the tile floor, the weight of the moment and the difficulty of the journey that lie ahead shrouded us, yet there was a certain peace, a knowing that the God who created us and knows us and loves us and calls us by name was there, in our midst, reminding us He would be with us. No matter the darkness of the moments, no matter the heaviness of our souls, He would be there. Every moment, every tear, every prayer, He hears and He will never leave us nor forsake us. Ever.

As I’ve walked through this dark cloud of depression with my husband, I’ve realized many, if not all, the men God used to illustrate His goodness and glory in the Bible walked through depression, as have many more contemporary saints.

David cried out in Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me from my groaning?”

In Psalm 42:11 David says, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?”

Elijah cried out in despair in 1 Kings 19:4 “I’ve had enough Lord. Take my life, I am not better than my ancestors.”

In Jonah 4:3 the prophet said in anger, “Now O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Job’s life was a study in suffering. He says in Job 3:26 “I have no peace, no quietness, I have no rest, but only turmoil.”

Moses was overwhelmed with the weight of the sin of Israel, “But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” Exodus 32:32

Many, many great men of God also suffered from a melancholy soul. George Mueller, Hudson Taylor, D.L. Moody, and Charles Spurgeon all dealt with the dark cloud of depression. Yet, the Lord used them mightily for His good purposes. These men all carried the weight of souls heavily and felt a supernatural compulsion to care for others, serve others, and share with others the hope of the gospel of Christ.

But perhaps the most beautiful comfort and solace when the black cloud is hovering is found in Hebrews 4:15-16 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

black-and-white-cemetery-christ-208315.jpgJesus understands our weaknesses because He walked through them. He knows anguish. He knows sadness and heartache. Because He knows, we can come before him knowing He will receive us with mercy and grace and will carry us in the valley and walk with us as we find our way to standing firm in the truth.

If you find yourself under a stormy cloud, or if you know someone who is fighting their way through the darkness, there are a few practical things you can do.

          Memorize and mediate on the Word. Romans 12:2 says we are transformed by the renewing of our mind. Our mind is renewed only when we paint over the lies with truth. That is done by plastering our mind with the Word of God. The first thing I did after praying over my husband was enlist my kids to help in posting scriptures on my husband’s bathroom mirror. Every morning he is bombarded with truth.

          Be prayerful. We can go before that throne of grace with confidence knowing God knows and hears and cares. We can go before Him honestly and express our despair and our agony. He is a safe place and He is the One who will reveal truth and show you the way out of the darkness. “Pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8b

          Be patient. Healing takes time. The darkness can linger for days, weeks, months, sometimes years. Give yourself or your loved one time and space to find their way out of the dark.

          Seek help. After praying and posting scripture, I encouraged my husband to reach out to some close friends. Friends I knew would exhort him in the truth and keep him accountable. Counseling by a Biblically grounded professional counselor is also a valuable tool. In many cases, there is a physiological component to depression. Don’t be afraid to seek out a medical professional.

          Serve others. In Philippians 2 Paul says “Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” When we look outside ourselves and look for ways we can serve those around us, it helps us put our circumstances in perspective. The day after the darkest night at our kitchen table, God sent a precious family to our tire store. My husband was able to help meet a need for them. The father of this family was an older gentlemen who happened to be a follower of Christ. He took time to encourage my husband in the truth. By helping this family my husband received a needed blessing.

 One of the most beautiful aspects of the Psalms is the way David, in his depression and in his despair, always comes back to the truth, the reality of the God who is.

In Psalm 22 which begins with a passionate cry to the Lord for help out of his groaning and despair David says this, “YET you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.”

It requires a supernatural strength to look up to heaven, to will yourself to speak the truth when your heart isn’t cooperating. But until the cloud moves, keep standing firm on what the Word says is true about who you are and who your God is. He will meet you right where you are and He will carry you– every step of the way.

suns-rays-478249_1920