“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
I recently returned to jogging and went out for a run on a Saturday morning with the sun high in the cloudless sky and 1000% humidity. It was a brilliant move highly recommended by elite athletes everywhere.
A few miles in I arrived at a place in the road with a prolonged, steady incline that is demoralizing on a good day but was absolutely kicking my tail on this awful one. My sweat-soaked brow and unstable legs harshly reminded me that not only am I not an elite athlete but rather a 47-year-old woman who does not have to be doing this to herself. So, I did what all pros recommend when they hit a wall – I called Luke to ask him to come pick me up and also bring snacks.
What the pros don’t tell you is what to do when your rescuer doesn’t answer the phone. After a couple of tries it became abundantly clear no one was coming to save me. All hopes of Diet Dr. Pepper and Kit-Kats were dashed and it was time to figure out what to do.
I considered my options. I could call the boys but that would mean one of them would actually have to answer the cell phone I pay for to communicate with them. I would have hitchhiked with Jack the Ripper but not a single car passed. I could call 911 but in my condition couldn’t remember the number. And so, I began the long trip home by concluding there are some roads that can only be walked out with you and Jesus and did the only thing I could – put one shaky foot in front of the other.
On the trek back, I thought much about the various ways we find ourselves expecting others to be our Jesus and how bitter we can become when they don’t show up rescue us in our time of despair. Worse yet is looking for a substitute savior that has no business being in ours. My nephew is a tri-athlete (it doesn’t run in the family) and he told us once about race volunteers offering Gatorade to the competitors not knowing once the sugar hits their ravaged systems it makes them mess their very tight pants. The lesson of that repulsive visual? Though the refreshment being offered seems like an oasis in the desert, make certain the person from whom you take is an authority on the subject – both intellectually and morally – and doesn’t have an ulterior motive slanting the advice. Though well-intentioned, “sweetened” solutions not rooted in scripture can leave us in a much worse condition than we began.
So, what do we do when we are struggling and no one is coming to save us? Matthew 5 says we rejoice understanding this present suffering will make the next one a bit easier to endure ultimately producing a sanctified version of ourselves. Knowing we are never powerless or abandoned by the God who loves us produces hope and faith that was perhaps missing and created our neediness to begin with.
Meditating on these things, I hardly noticed that wavering steps had sped to a shuffle and the shuffle progressed to a slow jog. Finally, home was in view and like a horse that sees the barn I kicked it up another notch to the finish line which looks a lot like my mailbox. I turned in to the driveway to find Luke working in the yard without a clue I had ever called for help.
I’m glad he didn’t answer.