Sometimes the inspiration to keep on plodding comes from looking at the life of someone who has suffered much but who still somehow finds a way to keep going. My Aunt Francie’s life was changed dramatically when she was 21 years old, when a driver who was passing another car on a hill ran into my aunt’s car head-on. She barely survived the crash and was in a coma for fourteen weeks. She underwent dozens of surgeries. Although her brain eventually healed, her ability to speak and communicate has been hampered by scar tissue. She has some physical handicaps and has dealt with seizures her whole life. In 2004, she sent me a card to encourage me. It read, in part,
Our Lord’s return has to be even sooner than we can think. Stay on the job, Mike. When do we quit? When we die that’s when. Others need to know God cares for us . . . our world needs help . . . . We need him now.
I have been encouraged and inspired to keep plodding in life because of the example of my Aunt Francie, who could have chosen to give up on life many years ago.
Some things in life threaten to overwhelm us. But how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Similarly, Jesus told us to live our lives one day at a time. We need to walk with Jesus one step at a time. Starting a race is easy, but keeping going—plodding on to the very end—is another thing entirely. My basketball coaches in grade school, high school, and college all told me the same thing: The mark of a great team is how they play in the final minutes of the game, not in the first few minutes of the game, when everyone is fresh. The key is shooting well and playing aggressive defense at the end of the game, when your legs are tired and you are tempted to slow down. It’s the same in running a long-distance race: Anyone can do well during the first mile, but it’s what you do during the fourth mile (for cross-country runners) or the twenty-sixth mile (for marathon runners) that is most important. It’s not about starting; it’s about enduring and finishing—about learning to plod.
Several years ago at a church in Toronto, I met a blind brother in Christ who told me of his ministry to people in the AIDS ward of a city hospital. His first objective with AIDS patients was to help them undergo a paradigm shift. He wanted them to stop thinking (and saying) “I’m dying of AIDS”—replacing it with “I’m living with AIDS.” Whenever he was able to facilitate this shift, he helped people get on with the business of plodding on in daily life rather than sitting and moping. I will never forget the proclamation of a young woman from Africa who was HIV-positive, whom I heard speak at a missions conference: “I will not die before I die!” Life is too short to quit moving forward.
REFLECTIONS: Can you think of someone you know that has had to deal with a great amount of suffering in this life, yet has somehow found a way to keep plodding on? Consider writing them an encouragement note, thanking them for their great example of perseverance in the midst of trials. Find a place to post Hebrews 12:1-2 as a reminder to look to Jesus for inspiration to endure trials.
let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God