It's all about perspective.
Runners focus on the finish line, at least the serious ones do. They know that no matter how much discomfort they experience during the race--the burning lungs, the aching muscles, the cramps, the fatigue--it will all melt away at the finish line. There is rest. There is acceptance. There is freedom. Spectators cheer, coaches and family rejoice and comfort and welcome. Hugs await, congratula-tions, claps on the back, water, rest.
The suffering is temporary. Relief awaits. And so the runner presses on through the pain, through the exhaustion, through the mental battles.
It's about perspective. It's about realizing this life is temporary. All the pain experienced here, all the suffering, all the heartache and troubles and misery will end.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I've been through cancer. As most, if not all, survivors will tell you, it wasn't pleasant. There were lots of tears, depression, discomfort, nagging nausea for months, fatigue, more depression. It was a year I'd choose not to relive. But during that journey there were times (when I was lucid and of sound mind and thinking) when I reminded myself that no matter how intense the suffering got it was only temporary. There was an end. There was relief, comfort, rest.
According to the Center for Disease Control, life expectancy in the United States is 78.7 years. That may seem like a long time, and if you have a disease or illness or debilitating condition it's an even longer time, but looked at from the proper perspective, against the backdrop of eternity, it's a mere blip, a single beat, a blink.
It's about perspective.
Any runner, even those of the longest, most grueling ultramarathons, will tell you that to keep your mind alert and your will alive you have to focus on the finish line. They endure what they endure because they realize there is an end, there is a release. Their suffering is temporary. Without that knowledge the race would be futile, the suffering meaningless, every step would be one step deeper into hopelessness.
But with the proper perspective there is always hope.
The apostle Paul had it right when he wrote: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Read that again if you need to. That's a right perspective, focusing on the rest to come, the freedom from pain and heartache and sufferings of any kind.
It's easy to lose sight of that, though, isn't it? To focus on the pains of life. The burning lungs. The cramping muscles. The aching feet. It's easy to get distracted by each step and the hardship it brings. To lose sight of the finish line and become preoccupied with challenge of the run.
Then discouragement sets in. That voice in our head, the little man without a heart and no faith begins to whisper. It's not worth it. You didn't sign up for this. This isn't how your life was supposed to turn out. This is more than you can handle.
And we want to give up; we want to stop running, throw in the towel. After all, what's the use? Misery is all around us. Every turn we take invites another obstacle, another challenge, another adversary. There is no relief.
But it's so avoidable. Not the challenges, not the pain, not the trials. No, they're part of life. They come with the territory; it's a package deal. What's avoidable is the quitting.
Because it's a matter of perspective. The finish line holds the promise. There is where rest is. There is the reason for our hope. If we look past the fog, through the darkness, and find the light, we will realize that there is more than our present circumstance. And we will press on. We will run. We will conquer. We will finish.
We will be unstoppable.