He was wearing a light blue shirt, shorts, and his new cowboy boots. We stood by the driveway of our beloved little Cape Cod style home, purchased less than two years before.

I had explained to our son, barely four years old, the meaning of the “For Sale” sign planted in the yard. This little man looked straight at me, his eyes telling me he understood more than I gave him credit for. Articulate, to the point, he punched out every word of his question: Does this mean I am leaving all my friends?

The memory is poignant, often pushing itself into my conscious thought, and even more so since my husband and I accepted the call to return to Africa last year. Just as my son, with all the concern of a child, looked into my face over three decades ago, I now look into my Father’s face. And I punch out every word: Does this mean I am leaving all my children, my grandchildren and my brothers?

Oh, my soul, and my dear colleagues, and precious MKs, run immediately and quickly to Jesus. Seek Him early in the pain of separation, of alienation, of aloneness. Don’t even glance at the suggestion that you are a victim. Reject the philosophies of our culture that tell you the right to choose is sacred and undeniable; that you know what is best for your own well-being; that you can choose your own “best life” and attain it — and if someone else denies you that right, you are destined to second-best, and that ‘God certainly wouldn’t want that’.

Our comfort in this trial is no more and no less than His very word, which gives life. The Holy Spirit counsels and comforts us with his life-giving word found in Hebrews. He tells us:

You are not a victim. You are a runner.

Let us run with endurance the race set before us.

This is your race, and it is now, whether you are four or forty. God is the One who has set it before you, complete with circumstances, trials and what the world disdains as “second best”. God engineered each rise and bend for His glory and your ultimate reward. Jesus set a race before Peter, for example, putting him in the lane of His choosing. Peter turned his head aside to see what was going on in the lane next to his. “That runner, that lane, is no business of yours”, Jesus told him. “Here is your lane, yours alone. I ran it before you. You follow me.”

Yes, but how can one endure it? We haven’t left home for a vacation to soon return to intimate fellowship with friends and family. Such uninterrupted intimacy is not part of our course. Here, also, the word of God instructs us:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,

Let the Holy Spirit instruct you as you reflect on the race that each of those witnesses ran. Ponder Isaac, the son who was born into pilgrimage but embraced God’s promises; consider Joseph, who was thrown into a slavery no one would choose, yet he is not portrayed as a victim; learn from Moses, who actually denied a first-choice world and chose suffering because he considered Christ a greater treasure than all the riches of Egypt.

let us lay aside every weight,

Matthew Henry’s amplification clarifies and convicts. “All inordinate concern and affection for the body, this present life and the world is a weight.” The victim occupies himself with his grieving. The victim rehearses injustices done to him. Sadly, most of our counselors are likely to caress and embellish these weights. They encourage us to run towards self-fulfillment, self-esteem and self-assertiveness. Jesus said to deny our selves, and follow Him. Throw off the weight of self and find you are strengthened!

and sin which so easily ensnares us,

Just as we each have been set in our own lane, there is a temptation that particularly entices each of us. Search your heart. With what sin is your heart most familiar, that you can almost predict will trip you up? Pride, fear, sexual sin, anger, unbelief? It is not the actions or decisions of other people that disqualify you, and I, from the race. It is the sin in our own hearts. Toying with sin saps our strength.

looking unto Jesus …

And finally, we endure by fixing our gaze on Jesus, the Runner before us, the designer of our lane and the one who planted faith in us. He enables us to reach the finish line. In fact, unless our faith be in Him and His gospel, we are not even in the race.

“Does this mean I am leaving all my friends?” By faith, I knew Jesus was planting faith in my son; that he would come to believe no treasure is worth more than life in Christ, that pain is not second best and that he is not a victim, but a runner.

I answered, “Yes.”

By faith, I run with my Father’s answer to me ringing in my heart: Yes.

Psalm 63:1, 119:50; Hebrews 11 and 12; John 21:20-22

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