Sometimes you’re running with the wind. Sometimes the wind is against you.
I spent last week at the beach, and a few mornings while I was there I got up and went for a run. My goal each day was to run over a bridge a few miles down the beach road and back.
The first day, as I started out, I felt great. I got over the bridge and I still felt great. I’d kept a pretty good pace, I was a few miles in, and I wasn’t tired or winded at all. I felt like I could keep going forever. It was incredible.
I thought to myself, “Man, this vacation is really doing wonders for me. I’m relaxed and energized. This is wonderful!”
And then I turned around to run back.
As soon as I turned around, I felt the wind in my face. I thought for sure the strength of the breeze would subside once I got over the bridge and back down on the road again.
But when I got back on the road, the breeze was even stronger, and it never let up. Eventually, I had to stop and walk the rest of the way home.
And then I realized why the run out to the bridge had been so easy. I’d had the wind at my back.
On the way out, the wind was helping me every step of the way, but I couldn’t feel it. When I was moving with the wind, I didn’t notice it at all. But when I had to run against it, I felt like I was running into a hurricane.
Later in the week, Julie and I went kayaking. The paddle out was easy. We were moving with the tide. The paddle in was a different story, though. I can still feel my muscles from the challenge of paddling against the tide.
Those watching from shore as we paddled—or those watching runners go by on the beach road—wouldn’t naturally know that the wind or the tide was helping or hurting. It isn’t something that’s immediately noticeable.
The same is true in life.
We never feel the strength of the wind until we’re forced to work against it. When embedded cultural norms and societal factors are helping us, we don’t even notice that they're there. Instead, we think that all the progress we make is due to our diligence, hard work and strength.
And when we see others struggling to make progress, we think, “If only they were only as strong as I am, as diligent as I am, as conscientious as I am, they wouldn’t struggle so much.”
But we never imagine that the same wind that helps us may be hindering someone else.
In fact, the only way to know for sure what headwinds people might be struggling against is to turn around and run with them—to walk a mile in their shoes.
So when life seems particularly easy, don’t forget the helping wind at your back. And don’t imagine that you’re flying ahead on your own. Remember, instead, to thank God for the unseen helpers propelling you forward.
And when you see others struggling to make progress, remember that many of your neighbor’s challenges are often unseen, too. Remember what it feels like to run against the wind yourself. You might even offer a helping hand.
Maybe our tendency to underestimate what helps us, while at the same time underestimating what holds others back, is the reason Jesus warned us about being too judgmental (Matt 7:1-3).
If you’re in a season of life where the wind is at your back, enjoy it. And if the wind is in your face, remember that it won’t last forever. An easier leg of your journey is just over the bridge.
See you Sunday.