33 years ago I ran the Rawhide Marathon in Colorado. I trained for this race with Mark, a close friend of mine. It took us about 2 months of running to get ready for this race. Toward the end of our training, Mark and I ran several long distances of up to 20 miles. However, on the weekend leading up to the day of the run I did some foolish last things, like refereeing 3 games of basketball the day before and skipping breakfast the morning of the marathon. I figured 2 cups of coffee would do. Not very wise to say the least, for the race was 26.2 miles long.
As the marathon begun Mark and I ran a pretty good pace, but around mile 14 I began to fade. I told Mark to go on without me that I would catch up. But as I ran past the mile 18 marker, I began to get discouraged and realized that I might not make it to the finish line. As I slowed with little energy left, a young girl from Colorado State University ran by me. Instead of continuing she stopped and ran back and said, “Come on you can make it, and I will run with you so that you can.” For the last 8 miles we ran together talking and running until the finish line came into view. As I ran passed the finish line, I met up with Mark again, but the young girl was gone. I wanted to thank her so much for what she had done, but could never find her.
I share this story because it can be compared to why God brings certain people into our lives to encourage us. Sometimes He gives us lifelong friends like Mark. At other times He brings someone in for a short time to teach us about our faith or just be there with us through a discouraging time, as the girl was for me at the marathon.
But whichever case it may be; never forget that God is the one behind it to help us stay encouraged. And He may even call us to be a friend to others, to encourage them, if not for the long term then at least for the short. So stay available and willing to be whatever kind of friend God wants you to be.
As I look back, some of my greatest and most meaningful bonds were not only with those who became my longtime friends, but others I walked beside during the last days of their lives. What a fulfilling relationship I had with these friends, even though it was just for a very short time.
I Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”