In the Boston Marathon, there is a legendary obstacle called Heartbreak Hill. Starting at mile thirteen of the Boston race course, there are many hills, climaxing at mile nineteen with Heartbreak Hill. It’s the longest, steepest hill in the race. What makes this hill even worse is that world-class runners “hit the wall” around mile eighteen or nineteen. That is, their bodies have depleted the glycogen stored in the muscles. That glycogen has been replaced with lactic acid.
The muscles are screaming for oxygen. And when you hit the wall, you just feel like you’re going to die. Heartbreak Hill tests runners to the very core of their determination and their strength.
We face many Heartbreak Hills in our life. Unfortunately, life’s race is not run on a level grade. We have problems at times big problems.
A daughter becomes pregnant out of wedlock. A loved one dies unexpectantly, and it seems like our faith is not enough to overcome the pain and the loss. We lose our job and suffer long-term unemployment. The pain of a divorce, a broken relationship. A financial catastrophe strike. We experience an emotional and spiritual breakdown.
There are people who right now is in the middle of a Heartbreak Hill experience. You are facing the most severe test of your life. This time is testing your faith and trust in the Lord to the very core of our being. And you are trying your best just to hang on for dear life.
I wish I were able to give you all the answers for every heartbreak you face. But I can’t even solve my heartbreak moments. I don’t have all the answers, no one except God has all the answers. God does not show us precisely what is going on or why, but he calls us, rather, to trust him. Even though everything is around us may be confusing and senseless in your perspective, he calls you to trust him.
James 1:12 says to those at Heartbreak Hill, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
God says don’t focus on the Hill but look to the Hills where your strength comes from reminds the psalmist. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of our faith.” He is the one who will get you through your times of trials.
It was Monday night, August 3, at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. At the track and field stadium, the gun sounded for the 400-meter semifinals. About 100 meters into the race, Britain’s Derek Redmond crumpled to the track with a torn right hamstring.
Medical attendants rushed out to assist him, but as they approached Redmond, he waved them all aside, struggled to his feet, and crawled and hopped in a desperate effort to finish the race.
Four years earlier, he had also qualified for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. Ninety seconds before his head, he had to pull out of the Olympics because of Achilles tendon problems. Following that injury, he had five surgeries. Somehow he had qualified again for this 1992 Olympics, and he’d just suffered a career-ending injury.
But he said to himself, “I’m not quitting. I’m going to finish this race.” He worked his way, hopping, crawling at times down the lane.
A big guy wearing a T-shirt, tennis shoes, and a Nike cap that said Just Do It across the front barreled out of the stands, hurled aside a security guard, ran to Derek Redmond’s side, and embraced him. He was Jim Redmond, Derek’s father.
Jim was one of these sports dads who changes his whole life for the sake of his athlete child. He changed jobs. He moved to find the best training for his son.
Now, arm around his son’s waist, Derek’s arm around his dad’s thick shoulders and neck, they continue down the track.
Mom and sister were watching this race back home on television. His sister, who was pregnant, went into false labor. Mom is weeping. There, at the stadium, the crowd is standing, cheering. Derek and his daddy work their way around the track until, finally, arm in arm, they cross the finish line.
If that’s the way, an earthly father responds to his son who is determined to finish the race no matter what the price, how much more does God, our heavenly Father, run to the side of his son or daughter who says, “I’m finishing. I don’t care how much it hurts. I don’t care how challenging the course is I’m finishing.”
God says as much in Isaiah 46:3-4: “Listen to me. You whom I have upheld since you were conceived and have carried since your birth, even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he. I am he who will sustain you. I have made you, and I will carry you.”
That’s God talking. As he carries you, as you wrap your arm around him, God whispers in your ear: “Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15).
And he embraces you, squeezes you a little tighter, and he whispers again, saying, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” He whispers again, as he does in Psalms, “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
My prayer for you is that one day, as the Apostle Paul, you will be able to say those words, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” Know follow disciple God is with you. Christ has redeemed you. And the Holy Spirit enlightens you. Amen