Simply put two drops in each ear.

It doesn’t sound like the punch line of a joke, but it is. At least, my parents thought so when I was a kid. Whenever something turned out to be waaay harder than anyone expected, they would burst out laughing and say to each other, “Ha ha ha! Simply put two drops in each ear!”

The line isn’t funny to anybody else in the world, of course. Eventually I noticed this and asked them about it. Turns out that when I was a squeaking pip of about two years old I kept coming up with ear aches. The doc prescribed some medicine to ease the pain. “It’s easy to administer,” he said to my parents, “Simply put two drops in each ear.”

Sounded good at the time.

It sounded less so, however, a few hours after they tried to do it. By then reality had set in: The reality of a recalcitrant toddler who DOESN’T WANT ANYTHING PUT IN HER EARS! The reality of wrestling said toddler into a position prone enough and still enough to get the drops in anyway. The reality of trying to convince a screaming, thrashing tot who is already panic-stricken by pain that her parents are not trying to kill her.

My parents, saints that they were, persevered through it all. When it was over, the medicine was in my ears. And on my ears. And running down my cheeks. And on the bedspread. And a half dozen other places. My parents sat exhausted and in a state of disarray patting me as, half-sobbing, I drifted off to sleep.

Mission accomplished, they glared at the instructions on the medicine bottle. Simply put two drops in each ear.

Can I tell you a bit of embarrassing truth? Sometimes I want to glare at preachers in much the same way.

After they’ve preached some fabulous message about simply walking by faith and living in victory, I want to grab them by their silk tie (or their pineapple shirt, or graphic T-shirt, or whatever) and say, “Do you have any idea how hard that is sometimes? And if you do, would you mind talking to us a little about how the dickens we’re supposed to get through it?”

A few weeks ago I was preparing to preach myself (I can talk about preachers with impunity because I are one) and the Lord did that for me. He downloaded to my heart the message I’d been needing to hear. He talked to me about just how tough the disciple’s life can be sometimes and showed me in Scripture that this “race” we’re running isn’t one where you sprint like a gazelle to the finish line.

It’s more like a combination race/wrestling match. You run a few yards; some brutish hulk throws you to the ground and pummels you; you fight him off, get back on your feet and keep running. Then you repeat the process for… like…years.

Whoa. That’s a serious kind of race. Good thing we have what it takes to win it. Good thing we’re more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. Good thing God gives us more and more grace, huh?

I shared some of what the Lord showed me in my recent message, Run to Win. There was one thing I didn’t include in the message though.

As the Lord was taking me through the Bible, reminding me of how many difficulties famous race-runners like Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Joseph, David, and Daniel faced, I asked Him a question. “Lord, what about Jesus?” I said. “He’s our example.”

Even Jesus went through hardship, He answered. He learned obedience “… by the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8).

“Well, right, after Gethsemane things got tough but until then He had pretty smooth sailing.”

You think so? said the Holy Spirit. Let me give you a quick recap. Jesus was wiser than all the Scribes and Pharisees at 12 years old. He knew more than any minister on the planet and felt He was ready to fulfill His call. But He had to spend 17 more years sweating in a carpentry shop, waiting for God to give Him the go-ahead. That’s hard.

When He finally did get His divine commission, He had to go into the wilderness for 40 days. Think about it. He’s spent 17 years waiting to preach and now He has to spend 40 days of His short 3-year ministry out in the middle of nowhere with nobody to talk to but the devil? That’s hard.

He finishes with the wilderness, goes back to Nazareth to launch His ministry. The folks respond to His first message by gnashing teeth and trying to hurl Him off a cliff. He waited 17 years and 40 days for this? That’s hard.

The only person from His family who didn’t think He was crazy was His cousin, John. But as soon as He actually started His ministry, John got offended. Then Herod cut off his head. That’s hard.

Everywhere Jesus went, the Jews were scheming against Him, trying to trap Him, plotting to kill Him. He wore Himself out preaching, fell asleep in the boat and the devil tried to kill Him with a storm. His disciples didn’t even have enough faith for Him to get a nap! He had to be taking care of them all the time. When He left them alone, they nearly went to fisticuffs over which one of them was the greatest. And at the very height of His ministry, when He preached the real truth about His mission, everybody except the 12 disciples turned their back on Him and left. Imagine if you had a ministry with thousands of partners and in one day all but 12 called and asked to be removed from your partner list. That’s hard.

And all that happened before the cross.

Here’s my point and here’s why all that is good news for us. Whenever things start going haywire in our lives, whenever we hit obstacles and roadblocks and some throws to the mat, the devil always (always!) tells us it’s because we’re losers or we’re messing things up somehow.

But that’s a lie.

The truth is that’s all just a part of the race.

So keep running, friend. Keep fighting. When it gets hard, don’t let the devil condemn you. Just go to Jesus, get some more grace, let Him bandage up the boo-boos and go after it again.

Sounds easy when you say it, I know. (Simply put two drops in….) It’s not so easy when you’re doing it. But, easy or hard, you have what it takes to finish. And in the end, you win.