Running Against the Wind
Today I happened to listen to a favorite old song of mine on YouTube, “Against the Wind” by popular singer-songwriter Bob Seger.1 It’s a reflective song that tells the story of a person who, upon experiencing heartbreak in his younger days, loses his way in life and then spends the rest of it in hardship, seemingly always running against the winds of adversity. And yet in the end, there’s some sense of victory and hopefulness in that he hasn’t caved in to life’s troubles, but after all he’s been through, he still keeps on running, a sentiment he echoes in the refrain “I’m still running against the wind.”
After listening, I scrolled down to the comments section for the first time and was quite struck at the emotional reactions left by other listeners. Many shared how they were moved by the sentiments expressed in the lyrics and how they could relate to them. Others told of how the song brought back fond memories of their parents who loved the song, and how that now that they themselves are older, they understand why. Some said that they were brought to tears. I was moved to see how the song resonated with them so deeply.
This led me to reflect on my own life, and the memories of the many struggles I have faced came flooding back to me, even some that I had long forgotten.
The Bible does liken life to a race we’re running. Hebrews 12:1–2 says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”2
I’ve read this verse many, many times in my life, but looking it up this time I saw something I’ve never noticed before: the phrase “marked out for us” (or “set before us” in other translations of this verse). This indicates that God purposefully enters us into our particular race. I find it interesting that we’re not running out of random chance, but rather by God’s design in a race that God intends for us to run and win.
If you’ve ever tried running against a strong headwind, you’ll know how hard it is to make ground. Athletes, like I used to be, know that if the wind is strong enough, it can hold you back so hard that you feel like you’re almost going nowhere. Have you ever felt like you’re running for all you’re worth in life but seem to be making little or no progress? No matter how much effort you put in, you keep meeting with fierce resistance? I’ve felt that way many times.
So how do we manage to keep running in the face of life’s heavy wind resistance? Paul says by “fixing our eyes on Jesus.” And he ought to know. Besides the regular human struggles of life we all experience, as an apostle of Christ and bearer of His message throughout the world, he faced enormous resistance in the form of severe persecution and other calamities. He even lists them in 2 Corinthians 11: beatings, whippings, a stoning, a shipwreck, floods, robbers, danger from various people, toil and hardship, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, cold and exposure, etc.3
And yet, in spite of the barrage of obstacles, setbacks, and hindrances, Paul “kept running,” and near the end of his life, facing execution for his faith, even proclaimed his victory over it all, saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”4 Here he gives another huge clue on how to keep running into the wind: “I have kept the faith.” His faith kept him going.
Some people quit midrace. Either they get weary of the fight or they get distracted by other things or even other people. Paul speaks of these when he admonished the disobedient Galatians, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?”5
In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul gives some further clues about how to stay in the race: maintaining discipline and self-control, not running aimlessly but running with purpose and looking forward to heavenly rewards. He says: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control.”6
It takes a strong sense of dedication, discipline, and self-control to stay on course when the resistance is strong, and a healthy focus on the awaiting eternal reward gives us motivation to keep running when things are tough.
I’m sure that like Paul, any one of us could write a list of all the different types of headwinds we’ve faced in our own race. Maybe you’re facing some even at this very moment in your life. But when you feel like the wind is too strong and the finish line too far, remember the words of Isaiah, “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”7
So, let’s keep on running no matter how strong the headwinds so that one day we will be able to say like Paul, “The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.”8
3 See 2 Corinthians 11:23–28.
4 2 Timothy 4:7 NIV.
5 Galatians 5:7 NIV.
6 1 Corinthians 9:24–27 ESV.
7 Isaiah 40:29–31 ESV.
8 2 Timothy 4:6–8.