There is a young woman named Rei Iida. She is a 19 year old runner.
Rei was competing in a relay marathon in Fukuoka Prefecture in October last year. She was almost at the end of her 3.5 km stretch when she fell and broke her leg.
It would have been the end of the race for many, but Rei refused to quit. Instead the teenager completed her section crawling on her hands and knees, pushing through the pain to pass on the relay sash that would enable her teammates to finish the race.
By the end of her race Rei’s hands and knees are bloodied from the rough pavement. The doctors find that she has fractured her tibia and could take four months to heal.
But she did it. She completed her section of the race.
Her story reminds me there are others who are also crawling through their own pain. Their bodies may not be broken, but every day their heart and mind are telling them they can’t continue. Yet, through the constant dull ache to the sharp acid pain, they wake every morning to live through another day.
They don’t tell themselves it’s because they are valued. It’s not because they feel the need to continue when everything is screaming at them to stop. They breathe through another minute, another hour, another day because there are others depending on them. They hang on for their family, their friends who will have to bear the loss.
I saw a young woman at church a long time ago. I saw her push through the pain and anxiety to walk up the stairs into the hall. I sat next to her as her body trembled and her breath shook. She didn’t sing the songs. She did not hear the sermon. But she was there. Breathing through the jangle of nerves, desperately clutching onto God for strength and comfort.
I left her in safe hands and walked out of the hall into the sunshine.
Feeling helpless, I stood outside our church. I closed my eyes and I prayed. I prayed for courage. I prayed for healing. And I wished God didn’t seem so far away when the world seemed so broken.
I wish I knew back then a 19-year-old teenager named Rei Iida would finish her race. If God gave her the strength to endure then surely He can give us the same.
There is a piece of scripture I come back to when I feel it all getting too much. It calls me to trust Him and endure, even if its promise of comfort seems a long way off and a little over the top.
Isaiah 40:29-31 says
 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Then I remember Jesus who knows and understands pain; who has felt its wounds and endured it all for our sake. He doesn’t say He will take away hardships. He instead asks us to carry our cross and follow Him. I can only trust He will help us endure it all until we finish our race.
To friends and strangers who are fighting their battles today, please keep going. Let’s not give up but press on until we see better days.