The daily readings from Today God Is First by Os Hillman often relate to something that is going on in the world or in my life. But today's installment hit a chord on both fronts.
The central theme of today's reading intersected with a significant North Texas event: the cancellation of the Dallas Marathon, which was scheduled to be run Sunday. It was canceled – not postponed – because of the lingering cold and ice that was dumped on the area Thursday night.
Hillman's message was built around Romans 5:2-4: "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
I've done a lot of running since 1976, but have been dormant for a few months because of an ankle injury. I even ran a marathon in 2003. Every mile of my four months of training was solo. Whether solo or in a group, marathon training takes perseverance because it produces pain (suffering) in your legs, your lungs and your emotions. But the long process (perseverance) of training rewards you with character (positive will, moral fiber, integrity) and hope (positive expectation) of finishing.
Reading the comments of runners who had already arrived in Dallas for the pre-race events, you hear the disappointment. After all the expense (that won't be refunded) and persevering to train, all the pain of every training mile appeared squandered. All their hopes of dashing were smashed for this weekend. But they'll run again.
Even though they didn't get to run as they had hoped, they nevertheless are reaping the benefits. They're stronger in body and character because they persevered to prepare. They're not only ready and able to run a marathon, which many will do, but they're also better prepared mentally and emotionally for life. Hillman put it this way in his message:
"The path ahead of you is strewn with obstacles. People will oppose you. There will be financial setbacks, time pressures, illnesses and misfortunes. Some of the biggest obstacles will be inside of you: self-doubt, insecurity, procrastination, and worry. You must give yourself permission to succeed."
In the case of running a marathon, for most of us succeeding is simply finishing. Hillman concludes that success in life is similar:
"Life is a marathon, not a sprint. The race doesn't go to the swiftest, but to those who don't give up. We need endurance in order to deal with the stress of adversity."
He also takes a page out of the runner's training book and applies it to everyday life:
"We must maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get plenty of rest. People give up or give out when they feel depleted – when they physically, emotionally and spiritually run out of gas."
When disappoint covers you like a sheet of ice, keep on "running." Don't give up. Persevere.