Recently, two friends, my brother, and I participated in a very special event—the Fisherman’s Friend Strongman Run! This 15 km route includes 30 obstacles of varying difficulty. There’s sticky mud which sucks your feet down rapidly, and you have to keep moving to stay on top. Then there are icy river sections to swim or wade through, testing endurance. Nets, trenches, tires, steep dirt slopes—all good reasons to justify to oneself, I just couldn’t make it. But the fact is, it’s possible.
When I was an idealistic fourteen-year-old, I read a biography of David Brainerd. I loved reading about missionaries like David Livingstone, C. T. Studd, and Amy Carmichael. They seemed to have no trouble inspiring devoted converts who made every sacrifice visibly worthwhile. But Brainerd’s story got off to a tragic start. The reason I remember so clearly how old I was when I read about him is because by the time he was my age, he was an orphan. I still had both of my parents, with many happy years left to enjoy both of them.
I’d been going through a few tough weeks, when I began questioning my faith. Not questioning God, but questioning how much faith I had to face difficulties. I’d also been concerned about growing older, berating myself for becoming such a wimp, not able to keep up as I used to. So I gratefully accepted an invitation from my daughter Madi to go hiking in a place called Enchanted Rock.
In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was known as a master trickster and the most cunning of men. Eventually, the gods were so displeased with his craftiness and deceitfulness that they condemned him in the afterlife to push a huge boulder up a steep hill. The boulder was enchanted so that Sisyphus has never been able to complete the task: whenever he nears the top, the boulder always rolls back down, over and over again, endlessly, for all eternity.
Just before Christmas a few years ago, I was involved in a car accident that almost took my life. I sustained a spinal cord injury to my T4 vertebra, leaving me paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down, and confined to a wheelchair.
I first learned about Fu-Hua Chuang when my family and I watched a documentary that featured several severely disabled yet talented young people. I was struck by the radiant smile that seemed to illuminate her whole being, reflecting the inner beauty of her soul.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.1
I started walking away from what I knew God was calling me to a few months ago. I think I just grew tired of striving.
The prisoner dictated a letter to some of his dearest friends hundreds of miles away in another country. He told them that he was in chains—most likely chained to his jailer, as that was the custom of the time. Ironically, he had previously also been jailed in the city in which his friends lived.1 On that occasion he had been beaten and imprisoned—illegally, it turned out—in the city’s most secure cell. He was considered an atheist2 and a rabble-rouser, and was well known to authorities throughout the empire, who were glad to get him off the streets whenever they could.