I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13
Summertime reminds me of road trips, camping, and long distance races. Not my races, but those of my husband, Dan’s. For countless summers we would camp in Leadville, Colorado while he ran 100 miles in less than 30 hours. No matter the difficulty, Dan always crossed the finish line in time.
Imagine yourself standing at the starting line,10,000 feet high in the cold 4:00 a.m. mountain darkness. Over six hundred men and women are there with you, headlamps turned on until the sun rises. Each of you has logged thousands of miles over hundreds of hours to prepare for the next 25–30 hours of grueling climbs, steep traverses, and cold river crossings. You are about to enter “the pain cave,” as Dan calls it.
Most all the runners have a “crew” of friends and family following along to supply food, water, extra clothes, shoes, sunscreen, medical kits, love, and encouragement. Crews are constantly on the move. They also have an extremely challenging day and night, almost as hard as the runner’s.
Our three kids have been on “Daddy’s Crew” since they were in diapers and learning to run themselves. Every year they’ve watched hundreds of exhausted and beaten up runners pushing through the pain, spurred on by the race director’s rallying cry of “You can do more than you think you can!”
His battle cry always reminded me of what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. If you count the words in that statement, you’ll come up with 10. Perfect for two high fives as you’re cheering someone on!
Fast forward to Dan’s sixth time running the Leadville 100. Our son, Evan, was now old enough to not only crew, but also run alongside him late in the race as a “pacer.” Evan dressed in layers, packed for a long, cold night on the trails, and planned to encourage his dad to keep going no matter what. When my two guys took off together around 9:00 p.m., I prayed for their protection and success. I believed they could indeed do more than they thought they could. I prayed for God’s strength to push them through the next miles.
But as the night grew darker and colder, doubt seeped in. Waiting for them at the next aid station at 3:00 a.m., I paced back in forth thinking, “They should have been here by now. Something bad must have happened.” As my doubt collided with negativity and sleep deprivation, my confidence in their strength and ability to succeed plummeted.
Then… there they were. A son and his father. Two lights in the dark walking together.
My mind drifted back to Evan’s teenage years and the challenges we’d endured. Countless sleepless nights, hearts sick with worry. To say that Dan and Evan’s relationship had been strained would be an understatement. Somehow none of that mattered now, they were two men with the same last name, in pursuit of the same goal.
When they reached me, I quickly refilled their water bottles and packed their backpacks with more food and warm clothes. Evan spoke up as the leader, describing the terrain and his dad’s painful legs. As they waved good-bye and trekked on, I spoke a simple prayer, not for strength and success, but for their time together. I no longer cared if they crossed the finish line in time. I only hoped God would meet them in the darkness and struggle.
As the sun rose on Day 2, hour 26 in Leadville, disappointment dawned. The last aid station’s cut-off time arrived well before Dan and Evan did. I wondered how Dan’s heart would take his first defeat. I wondered if Evan would question his leadership. But when they rounded the bend, I saw two smiling faces. And when they crossed mile 87, I witnessed a father and son hugging. I knew God had come through. Their love was more important than any race medal. Their strengthened relationship was far greater than any victory.
Yes, God can do all things, sometimes even better than our highest hopes. His strength in us doesn’t always win trophies, but it does give us priceless gifts we can treasure for a lifetime.
3 O’Clock Circle - Two or more together sharing real life and relevant faith.
Read this week’s blog or listen to our podcast. Then discuss these 3 questions in your circle.
Think back to childhood. What is one favorite summertime memory?
When have you faced a physical, emotional, or intellectual challenge far greater than you could manage in your own strength?
How has God shown up reminding you that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you?
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