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  • Writer's pictureIain Johnston

The Strain of Stronger

The waves crashed relentlessly over the headland as it stretched its way out into the ocean like a long arm reaching out to sea.

The sea sprayed its cooling, reviving mist over me as I veered left and right to not become completely drenched.

I had been riding for over half an hour to this point, so early on a warm summer’s morning it was exhilarating feeling the cool ocean spray on my hot sweaty skin.

The headland stretched about a kilometre out and away from the sandy shores behind me. The pathway under my bicycle tires had been laid for the endless parade of walkers, runners, strollers and cyclists. Early in the morning though, the path was almost completely all mine.

The wind was behind me, ushering me along with a gentle push.

It’s in these moments, with the ocean wild from recent storms, the early summer sun casting the endless sky blue and the beautiful surroundings of the harbour and foreshore that I think to myself… this is living!!

I thought, these are one of the many moments that you can take to enjoy life in the midst of all the chaos that surrounds us. Little moments here, little moments there, where you choose to do something or enjoy something that breathes some much needed refreshing into your soul.

And I thought to myself as I reached the end of the headland and prepared to turn back, that life has these seasons too. Not just moments, but those seasons where everything is humming along as it should. You’re finding refreshment in your soul, the winds of life are behind you encouraging you along, and you just enjoying where you are, who you are, what you’re doing, the people around you.

I didn’t stop at the end, I swung my bike around in a large arch and began heading back along the headland towards shore.

And it hit me instantly.

Things changed so dramatically in a single short few breaths.

What once was enjoyable and exhilarating, suddenly shifted to become the complete opposite.

I never realised the breeze that was behind me was so strong!!

And now I found myself pressing back against a strong wind… and it was tough. My legs strained against the gears to press forward against the opposing buffets. My heart rate instantly began elevating. I could feel the lactic acid building up in my thighs. My breathing became laboured as I sucked in deeper and deeper for the oxygen my body needed to keep fuelling my body. It began hurting, straining, waring me down.

It was a challenge I had no choice but to overcome, because I was 10km from home.

The sudden wall of wind and change of circumstances took me back to a similar ride I was on many years ago.

You see, although we have these seasons where everything is going our way, and we’re thriving and just enjoying living… we also have those seasons of struggle and strain and trial.

The similar ride in question was in the middle of one of my toughest, most painful seasons ever.

I had been riding a cycling track and cruising at full speed with the wind, but by the time I had turned for home, the wind had picked up - a storm was brewing and I was now riding into it.

It was hard work.


I wasn't as fit as what I had been.

I was straining with every muscle in my legs to keep pushing forward, but I was really struggling.

In my mind, I was cursing the bike I was on. It was a mountain bike, but not an expensive one. It rode well, but it was heavy… especially when pressing into a strong, battering wind like I was in. At the exact moment I was wishing I wasn’t burdened with this bike, two cyclists on expensive carbon fibre road bikes zipped passed me with great ease. They weren’t fit riders by any means, I could see I was much fitter than them.

But on the bikes they were peddling, they pulled passed me like a pair of elite athletes.

It was nothing short of pure torture on my mind!!

I wasn’t in a financial position at the time to buy a better, lighter bike I could speed around on. This was the best I had.

So I prayed a simple prayer while straining and struggling to keep going against the wind.

I basically asked God that if there was anyone out there who had a good bike that they just simply don’t use, please place it on their heart to give it to me!!

It was part joke...

Part serious.

Probably more serious, than joke.

And God spoke, clear as day. I’ll never forget it.

He said, “You will be fitter and stronger than those other two cyclists, by training and riding on the heavier, tougher bike.”

But He didn’t stop there.

“I know the season you are in is tough, hard and everything feels like it is blowing against you. And you feel like you do right now, having to cope and make the best with what you’ve got against storms that battering you relentlessly. And what you've got, is heavy and burdensome. Others seem to be zipping past you in life… but you will become so much fitter and stronger in your heart, mind and spirit. Don’t be discouraged. The hard slog now is preparing you for great things ahead that others will not be equipped to do. This… is making you greater!!”

That moment??… was profound to me. It wasn’t like a little pick me up in the middle of a random day.

It shifted my mindset in a tough, difficult time.

It has stayed with me since.

I will always now see that in those days, moments, weeks or seasons when life is throwing everything at me to push me back and push me down, that by steeling my mind, my heart and my spirit in those moments, I will come out the other side fitter, stronger and more equipped than others to tackle even greater things.

And giving us everything we need when we can't go on, when our reserves are depleted, when we're about to collapse in a heap... is a God who will never abandon us, never fail us and will faithfully supply all our needs to keep us pushing through the storms.

So may I encourage you... keep going.

Ask God to be with you... and let Him be the provider He wants to be for your life.

See the challenges that come as an opportunity to go become stronger.

See the challenges as a opportunity for you and God to do extraordinary things together.

I heard a preacher once say, "I love challenges. I love when tough situations come against my life. I get excited when trials come. Because I'm excited to see how God is going to get me through and turn this around for His Glory."

With God, I promise, you will make it.

Oh… and the heavy bike I had back then??

I still have it.

And I still ride it every time I go out.

I can now easily afford a newer, better, lighter bike.

But I’d rather be fitter and stronger:)

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