Yesterday was the occasion of the Great North Run, and I caught a bit of it on television at lunch time. This year, as they have done for several years now – apart from 2020 when the Run did not happen – my son-in-law, Chris, and several of the ‘Olney Old Knees’ as they call themselves, have taken part. One of the members was not with them this year; Andrew Betts, one of the founders of the charity Advantage Africa, is still recovering from a heart attack, but his charity is being sponsored by some of the ‘Old Knees’.
So it’s interesting that, when I picked up a booklet called’ Disguises of Love’, I came across a chapter based on Luke 9: 51-62, which comments upon the London Marathon and refers to several athletes talking about the ‘pain barrier’ and how hard it was to get through it. Some runners give up at that point, we are told, but if you keep going, you eventually pass through the pain barrier, strength returns and the pain ebbs. It takes courage to hold on, but it’s the only way forward.
That is the way it is in life, too. We all meet pain barriers of one sort or another, and we don’t need to be runners to understand them. As Christians we might pray for a miracle – and sometimes miracles happen – but more often we just have to face the moment as it comes. We have to find that extra bit of strength from our prayer, scrape that extra bit of courage from the faith that God knows and cares, and hang on to the encouragement of friends around – and what a joy it is to have a wise, supportive friend at such times. Yes, I know we have to put it into the Lord’s hands, but even then we have to take some responsibility ourselves. That’s the hard part.
Yet, however hard the road, however long it takes, there comes a point where we break through our personal pain barrier on to the smoother road ahead. The pain recedes, the rhythm returns, and we’re running again. And the real miracle is not that something spectacular happened, but that we found the courage and strength to keep going, to hang on. Then we can look back and find that the Lord was with us, even when we felt most lonely and vulnerable – especially then! The important thing is to keep moving ahead.
(With acknowledgement to Eddie Askew)