Having just witnessed the spectacle of my favorite race, Paris-Roubaix, my thoughts have turned to suffering.
From spring classics and grand tour climbs, to our favorite local loop, there is no escaping from suffering on the bike. In fact most of us as cyclists seek it out. How far can we ride? How many feet can we climb? How fast can we ride a particular loop or hill?
To the outsider these are all masochistic self-floggings to see how much we can hurt ourselves, but we relish it. We encourage it. We at times idolize it, or at the very least have respect for those who can suffer more on a bike than we can. We look up to the riders who are able to suffer the most to gain the prize they are after.
There is even a series of training videos and accessories called The Sufferfest.
Or how about this video posted on VeloNews about a guy who rode 1000km over multiple mountain passes in one ride:
What is behind this fixation on making ourselves hurt?
For many it is that hard work produces strength, endurance, and – as my son likes to call it, our sixth sense – a sense of accomplishment. The results feel great when you can fly up a hill and recover quickly enough to hammer down the other side. It feels awesome to ride a hill you once had to walk up.
But we often aren’t this way off the bike. Collectively as a society, we look for the path of least resistance- the easiest way to do something, and we often complain when things in our lives are hard.
Hey, I’m preaching at myself here too!
God’s word says we shouldn’t be this way though. In James 1:2-4 it says to ” consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ”
Like a good coach who gives us hard intervals to make us stronger and faster with more endurance, God puts trials in our lives to grow us in the most important way, in our spiritual maturity.
If we know this to be true in our cycling, why is it so hard to embrace the pain, the “sufferfest” in our lives that God allows to make us grow stronger and make us “mature and complete, not lacking anything.”?
One major part of it is that it is not in our control. With cycling, we control how much we suffer . Even on a group ride or hanging onto the pack in a race, we can sit up and ease off the pace anytime we choose. In life, we don’t have that kind of control, we have to trust that God knows what He is doing, and sometimes that is the hardest part. And that is the part that produces spiritual maturity.
The Bible tells us that we can trust Him, that he does know what he is doing. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 it says “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
But God does not want us to suffer all the time. Just as we know that physical growth occurs mostly after a hard workout, during the recovery phase, God knows that we grow stronger when we rest in Him, and in the knowledge that He is sovereign and knows what is best for us and will help us grow.
Psalm 62:1 Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.
Psalm 91:1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High with rest in the shadow of the Almighty
Psalm 62:5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him
So get out there and suffer!
And then grow through rest, both on and off the bike.
— Rob Karman