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Climbing the Hills

Climbing the Hills


Due to the sensitive area this global worker is serving in, we are using the pseudonym of Charlotte Snow in order to protect her identity.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and 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. Hebrews 12:1–2 (ESV)

The most physically grueling thing I have ever done in my life was to run a half marathon—13.1 miles. Even now I think about it and have no desire to ever run that far again. But at a certain point in my life, I was motivated to do it. I remember the morning of the run. It was cold. We had to wake up before the sun to have a light but energizing breakfast, use the bathroom, stretch, and get to the starting line. It was invigorating! I ran with a friend, and she and I huddled together at the start line, trying to stay warm, both excited and nervous.

“I am tired. Living cross-culturally and seeking to share the Gospel in meaningful ways here is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.”

Then it began. The first few steps seemed heavy, but once we started, we found ourselves running faster than we had in training and with more energy. We had to consciously slow our pace, keep the excitement suppressed, and recognize that this was a long race. We needed to reserve our energy to meet the coming demands of the course.

Around mile four, I began to realize that I still had nine more miles to go, and my legs were starting to ache already! My friend, about ten years younger than me, encouraged me to keep going. So we plodded along. The initial excitement burned away at about mile five, and then around mile six the despair set in—I wasn’t even halfway there! Miles seven and eight are a blur; I’m pretty sure I ran those without being conscious of them. And then there was mile nine. For me, this was the part of the race where I almost convinced myself to quit. The beginning of mile nine was at the start of a very long, steep hill. I couldn’t see what was over the hill, and I convinced myself it was more hills that I couldn’t possibly overcome.

In my time on the field, I am at mile marker nine. I am tired. Living cross-culturally and seeking to share the Gospel in meaningful ways here is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It was so exciting at first, and I was so motivated. I had to consciously keep myself from taking on too many hours of language learning to prepare for the exhaustion that would come. And come it did. It came with the COVID pandemic, the closing of borders, the intense heat of the summer in the desert, the death of my team leader, and the pressure cooker of living in a place that is so different from everything I have ever known. I am pretty sure that July and August happened, but they are definitely blurry.

After returning from a break back in September, I plodded along for a while, feeling encouraged. Then came November—the dreaded mile nine at the bottom of a steep hill. What’s over the hill? I have no idea; I haven’t traveled this way before. My legs feel heavy, and I’m moving at a snail’s pace. Some moments I’m not even sure I’m moving at all. It’s 2021 now. There’s much work left to do, and the time to complete it seems both short and long at the same time. I look around and see the weary faces beside me, running the same race. I want to quit. What lies on the other side of this hill? Are there bigger obstacles than I have faced before now? How will I ever keep going?

“I have hope that the top of the hill will bring a fresh perspective and renewed resolve to keep going.”

Then I remember back to my experience running that half-marathon. I did keep going. I made it to the top of the never-ending hill. It was slow and ugly, but I made it. And when I did, there was a cool breeze blowing and the sun was shining. I could see the next bit of the course and I thought, “Okay, I can make it a little further.” And I did. I just made it to the next water station, then to the next mile marker, to the next landmark...and you know what? Eventually, that next goal was the finish line.

My time here is much the same. But I have hope that the top of the hill will bring a fresh perspective and renewed resolve to keep going. To make it to the next mile marker. To keep running.

This isn’t an unfamiliar or unique experience. We have these moments throughout our lives. I would guess that many of you are in the middle of your “mile-nine hill” right now, too. If anything, I hope that my confession of having the desire to give up encourages you. You’re not alone in the race.? ?I am convinced that there’s hope at the top of this hill. Sure, there will be other obstacles, but at the top of the hill, you recognize they’re not as bad as they seem while you’re in them. Sometimes the best thing we can do is just take that next step, then another one. Set our gaze on the next short goal and keep going.

“Someday, we will approach that finish line. We will not be running alone. There will be those who have already finished, waiting to celebrate with us.”

This is obviously the Christian race as well. The writer of Hebrews talks about running with endurance the race that is marked out for us. That means we take the obstacles as they come along the journey God has laid before us. And we have hope that someday we’ll be on that last stretch toward the finish line.

The last stretch of my half-marathon was a very straight road. I could clearly see that finish line ahead. There were hordes of people celebrating who had finished the race before me. Along the sidelines were thousands of supporters, cheering as we all strived with new strength along that final path. I looked around at those who were approaching the finish with me, smiling with determination and satisfaction that they didn’t give up. And even behind me I could hear the joyous shouts of those who just now were coming into view of the finish line as well.

Someday, we will approach that finish line. We will not be running alone. There will be those who have already finished, waiting to celebrate with us. There will be those behind us we will wait for with joy. Maybe someone along the sidelines will be encouraged by seeing us finish and decide to run their own race as well. That is our hope in this Christian life. To run the race, enduring the hardships and not giving up hope, knowing that the promise of joy and rest lies across that finish line.


PRAY: Lift up global workers all around the world who are still feeling the effects of the pandemic on their lives and ministries. Pray that God will give rest and endurance to those who, like Charlotte, are struggling to keep running.

GO: As you consider those around you who might be in a similar situation to Charlotte, look for ways to reach out to them and share encouragement. How can you cheer them on and give them a boost of strength to continue their race?

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