Cycling and Suffering

Colombian Cyclists Dream Of Racing Out Of Poverty : NPR

“If you can’t suffer, what good are you?”

This quote by the 16 year old cyclist in the link above really got me thinking. I have been into bikes (read not necessarily cycling yet, but bikes) for nearly a year now, but have yet to really start riding long distances. I use my bikes to get around town or to get Maisie to school faster…not to suffer.

Last week we got to go to our annual Christian Associates conference called Connect. The main passage that we were studying was Hebrews 11. Our friends in CA who presented did a great job, and didn’t pull any punches. Over and over we were reminded that suffering is a major theme of the lives of the people in Hebrews 11.

It hit home when my friend Andrew shared this passage from Hebrews 2:9,

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Andrew pointed out that because Jesus suffered he is now crowned with glory and honor. He went on to say that if we are living lives of faith in Jesus, that at some point, and in some way we will suffer because of it. Not the traditional (erred) health and wealth presentation of the Christian faith…

The truth is that God uses our faith to lead us to sacrifices and suffering. He uses sacrifices and suffering to mature us. And he uses mature followers of Jesus to change the world and help bring about the re-creation of all of things. I would argue, that if our faith is never tested, we never know where we really stand. We never get to see the ways that we are still living by our human ways, and not in God’s bigger picture of truth and love.

So I share the quote again,

“If you can’t suffer, what good are you?”

Cycling really is a brutal sport. There is no rest. Either you are pedaling uphill, racing downhill, or grinding it out on the flat ground to keep up or stay in front of your opponents. Watching the Tour de France in the climbing stages is a perfect picture of suffering on a bike. The agony on the rider’s faces looks almost contrived because it’s so dramatic. The heat, the altitude, the pain, the exhaustion, the mental fatigue of racing for weeks…it’s all there in their faces. The riders are thin in a near disfigured way from burning so many calories. It’s crazy…but the glory of winning a stage, or the whole thing is worth it to them because they are competitors (and getting paid).

But in the cycling world, if you can’t learn to suffer on a bike, then you’ll never win. I love riding my bike around town and I’m looking forward to riding for exercise, but I don’t know about suffering. It’s just so much fun riding around and working on my bikes…why would I want to suffer? …Maybe that’s the difference between a real cyclist and bike rider?

In the story that I linked to…it’s not just the young man who is sacrificing for cycling. His parents sold their house to buy him a bike. His mom started a business to make ends meet. They have a hope and a dream that cycling will take them out of poverty. And I believe that this is where the analogy gets good for those who desire to grow and to follow Jesus in faith. These people (rightly) hope and believe that their suffering will have a pay off in the end. They aren’t suffering just to suffer. It is for the hope in the future that they are enduring their hardships…that reminds me of something:

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

When we see the joy on the other side of our suffering, we can endure. If our faith leads to suffering, which leads to maturity, which leads to being people Jesus would be pleased to call brothers and sisters, which leads to us being the type of people that God wants re-creating this world along with him, then we have to ask ourselves a question: Is the joy of joining God in His good purposes towards creation worth suffering for?

For some…they are content riding their spiritual bikes around town…because they aren’t riding to compete. They are riders of convenience.

Yet for others…we are only content riding in a way where Jesus would look at us and call us peers…brothers…sisters…co-heirs of the Kingdom of God…We suffer and sacrifice because partnership with God is worth it.

Last time:

“If you can’t suffer, what good are you?”


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