Drawing strength from the joy of the Lord
Each week we see great sports people and teams achieve success in their sports careers. Going quickly down memory lane we see AB De villiers, making the fastest 50 and 100 runs in the world, Wade Van Niekerk breaking the 44s line and the SA record in the 400m track race, Richard Murray who a few weeks ago qualified for the Olympic games in triathlon.
One name that I want to stand still at for a while is Caroline Wostmann, the 32 year old wife, mother of two children and the Comrades women winner of this year’s Comrades marathon. I had the opportunity to spend a bit of time with her at her family home to talk to her about her experience of being the Comrades woman winner of 2015. I asked her about her relationship with God and she said: “When I run, God talks”. This is the time when she looks differently at creation and problems. Running gives her time to get clarity and perspective on life situations; it’s the time where she speaks to God and when God speaks to her. If you remember watching her while she ran to victory at the Two Oceans and the Comrades Marathon you would have noticed the smile she had on her face — she for sure experienced God and joy while she was running!
This reminded me of the scripture in the Bible in which Nehemiah said: “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
“The Joy of the Lord is your strength”. Caroline explained that there were times during the Comrades Marathon when she felt hurt and pain, but the fact that there is always something to be thankful for helped her to push herself through the pain. She would thank God for the blessing of running, and would focus on God in thanksgiving. This would give her the strength to go on.
Caroline is also a women with a passion to make a difference. She tried to get involved in charity events in the past, but always felt that it took her focus away from the fundamental things like family and the journey on which the Lord was directing her. She started to realise that the Lord is giving her a platform to make a difference while she focusses on what He is giving her to do now.
When I asked Caroline how she handles all the training, the lecturing at Wits, spending time with her two daughters with ages 5 and 7, and her husband, she gave me a beautiful and profound answer. She said that about a year before the Comrades Marathon, she, her husband and two children sat down and discussed the fact that mommy wants to go and win the Comrades in a year’s time. They explained to the children what it meant, and asked them if they were with her in this as a family. It was important for her that the family was behind the goal. They communicated to the children the fact that mommy would be leaving the house at 5am each morning to go to training in Johannesburg before she started lecturing at the University of the Witwatersrand. At about 15:30 she would drive back to Pretoria and go straight to the track or gym for her next training session, before going home. She would then use the rest of the time for the family only: no watching tv, they would eat around the table, help the children with homework before she and her husband would put them to bed before the next morning would start again at 4am. It was a family decision and journey; not just her own.
What can we learn out of her story?
I believe that life is like an endurance race. There are times where we feel strong and motivated and it is easy for us to keep going, but there are also times where we get tired and become demotivated as pain and life’s burdens take their toll. In these down times, we should follow the example of Caroline and remember that there is always something to be thankful for. Start to focus on those little things and focus on God’s provision, gifts and just the fact that we can wake up every morning, and breathe the life-sustaining air that He has created for us. Put the focus on God, His son, the love that Jesus has for us, that God sent Jesus to die on the cross so that we can have abundant life. This abundant life gives us joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit as we read of in Gal 5:22, and the Spirit is Jesus within us, and if we put our focus on God and open our hearts to this joy, then we receive strength. Let’s tap into the Joy of the Lord during times of demotivation and pain, and we will see that the Joy of the Lord is indeed our Strength.
The second thing that we can learn out of my interview with Caroline is the importance of communication and planning in our family lives. The Lord gave her a goal and dream, but she first communicated the advantages and the disadvantages to her husband and children. She only went for the goal when they all were in agreement and when her dream was their dream too. My wife and I believe that the love between husband and wife, and the love of parents for their children and the children for their parents are all part of the testimony of the Love of Jesus and God for the world. That is why I, as a husband, should love my wife as Christ loved the Church, by giving myself to her. If we want to reach the world with the Love of Jesus, then it should start in our households in unity. So let’s take the example of Caroline and her husband, and get our whole households involved in the dreams and visions that the Lord gives us, so that our families and lifestyles become a Godly testimony.
I remember the year 2004. At that time I hadn’t even met my wife yet, but spent a lot of time with a friend and mentor of mine who is a pioneer of some of the most influential ministries all over the world. I looked on as he showed the love of Jesus through his family while he travelled the world most of the year for his Kingdom work. I remember asking him the secret of showing the Love of Jesus so profoundly through our own families. His answer was that you and your wife must be willing to live in a “glass house”. The people with whom you want to share the Gospel should see the Gospel in that house where you and your family live your everyday lives. That is so true, our marriage and family life is the testimony of Jesus, so we need to model the love of Jesus in it.
I need to say it again…. Jesus is the way, truth and life, no one comes to the Father except through Jesus. Let’s get the Joy of the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, and Jesus in our marathon of life and push joyfully through the hills and pain of this race, so that the world can see the smile and the Love and Joy of God through us as we persevere.
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