I ran cross-country when I was in junior high, but I have never since been much of a distance runner. My bad knee took care of that, even if I had been so inclined, which I wasn’t. However, I have always admired marathon runners for their discipline, conditioning, and mental strength. As these runners will tell you, and you may have experienced this yourself, there is often a point in the race where one hits “the wall.” This is defined when the body is depleted of its most accessible energy source—glycogen. At the depletion point, the muscles begin to weaken and the brain begins to signal it’s time to take a break. Of course, if you are still in the midst of the race, this is not an ideal option.
The global pandemic which engulfs us appears more and more like it is going to be a marathon rather than a sprint or a 5K. And I am already sensing some of us (many?) are already feeling we are approaching “the wall.” People, particularly in cities, are starting to have “cabin fever” and wondering how much longer this will go on. News reports are increasing of city folks with second homes leaving to escape to places they feel will be less restrictive and more pleasant. Those of us who are now working at home or not working at all are starting to get stir-crazy and worried, and also wondering how much further there is to go until we reach the end.
In reading a bit about how to overcome the wall while running a marathon, it seems what helps is figuring out how much energy your body uses during a race, and then to adjust your training and diet to ensure you have enough to run the whole race. What I think is going on as we start this marathon hosted by the CORVID-19 virus, is we weren’t nearly prepared for a race like this. Most of us are more used to sprints, where we suffer for a few days and then we’re done. And in those sprints we have relied much on our available stamina, which is our own willpower. However, this is no sprint and, if we haven’t already, we will soon reach the end of our reserves and hit the wall. Then what?
Well, if we try to continue running on our own, we will grow weaker and weaker until there is nothing left but hopelessness and despair. But, if we seek the Lord for strength, he will provide an unending supply of it. As David wrote in the midst of his struggle with King Saul:
But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely. (Psalm 59:16-17)
The Lord is the source of our strength and endurance in times of trouble and hardship. Without it, we will indeed fail to finish the race. As Paul reminded the Corinthian believers, the Lord desires us to rely on him rather than ourselves, and running a longer race where we easily deplete our natural strength to endure motivates us to cry out to him for help:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. (II Corinthians 1:8-10)
Right now, no one knows what lies ahead or how long this pandemic will last. But what is true is it is likely to deplete our natural ability to endure hardship and suffering. We will all hit the wall at some point. What we will need to persevere and complete this race is the strength of the Lord, and he is more than willing to give it if we seek him for it.
© Jim Musser 2020 All Scripture references from the New International Version 2011