Next weekend, Matthew will be running for 24 hours. This will be his third year doing this particular race. The previous years he has used this oddity to raise awareness of the needs in Haiti, through CPR-3. Although this year he is not raising money for anything, the raised eyebrows we get demand an explanation to the question people are always asking: WHY would you want to run for 24 hours???
One thing that has been deeply on our hearts this year has been the awareness of suffering throughout the world. There is real abandonment, hunger, pain being experienced by so many who love and believe in Christ Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. So while Matthew trains and runs, he enters into the struggle so many are experiencing right now. We have a few people God has put on our hearts in particular that we pray for as they battle loneliness, torture, and the desire to give up. At least for us, it is not as easy to pray with empathy and understanding when we always are able to grab food from the refrigerator, turn on our AC and crawl into our clean beds each night. We (Matthew as he runs, me as I support him) enter into their suffering by choice. The fact that there is suffering to be entered into is not easy. Unlike we are tempted to believe, in this life there is no easy button.
Please don’t think we are judging anyone, or saying everyone must do something like this in order to enter into someone else’s suffering. This is a personal choice for us. Jesus said that in this world you will suffer. Yet we too often act surprised, angry, or confused when the suffering comes. Take heart, I have overcome the world. This is not it, folks. There is a weight of glory which far outweighs the labor we go through this side of heaven.
The other aspect of why he runs is to challenge and inspire others to step outside of their comfort zones. We all have them. They are clearly defined areas of our life where no one may pass, God is not allowed to stir within their borders, and where we feel the most afraid God will ask us to change.
Some of our comfort zones may strike a chord with you. There is the food zone. This is where I find comfort in enjoying what I want , however much I want, when I want, even if it may be harming me and my family. God has been drawing us slowly out of this area the past few months. That is another story. Then there is the stuff zone. This is where I take comfort in what I own. I want to look the best, own the best. This border is pretty tight, and the fact that since I worked so hard to own it, it is now that much harder to give away. Sometimes we aren’t too far off from a small child learning how to share.
This week I was taken out of one of my comfort zones. The stomach bug hit us one by one and finally landed me kneeling by the toilet in the dark. This is truly one of my greatest fears and I fought for hours against it. It may sound strange, but once I praised God that through my circumstances I could enter into others’ sufferings, He took my fear away. I could also thank Him that I had a bathroom in which to be sick, and not unsanitary conditions.
Whether by choice or by uncontrolled circumstances, our desire is to be obedient when God tells us to be joyful in our suffering. Better to give Jesus all we own and all we are than for Him to pry open our fingers and take something away while we kick and scream like a child. This is not easy for me to write, because it isn’t what I like to hear. I like comfort, I like to have, I like to not be in pain, I like to feel loved not lonely, I like everything in order. However, none of this is promised to us on earth. Our hearts are marked for eternity, yet the fulfillment of all of these desires won’t be accomplished until Heaven. There we will be free of pain, worry and heartache. We will never cry, never hurt, never want more, never compare ourselves others, and never be lonely again.
So, along with our brothers and sisters around the world, let us strip off everything that hinders us, as well as the sin which dogs our feet, and let us run the race that we have to run with patience, our eyes fixed on Jesus the source and the goal of our faith. For he himself endured a cross and thought nothing of its shame because of the joy he knew would follow his suffering; and he is now seated at the right hand of God’s throne. Think constantly of him enduring all that sinful men could say against him and you will not lose your purpose or your courage. (Hebrews 12:1-3)