Not all people love running, but when forced to run, we all prefer an easy run rather than a difficult run. A nice easy jog with friends along a level road with nice shoes and free water supplies every few metres is certainly better than a difficult uphill run through a thorny veld with a beating sun, no water, worn shoes, and no company.

But, all those who want to finish the race well, know that the harder the run is during practise, the better one is able to actually finish the race. A nice casual job with friends is easier per kilometre, but nobody finishes a marathon that way. Marathons are finished by those who learned to run the hard way. Hard running finishes the race.

The same is true in the Christian race of ending this life well. An easy life is simply not the way to finish this life well. When all goes well we are easily distracted, and some have wandered off the Christian race altogether (2 Timothy 4:10). It is through the difficulties of the race that we remember that we are in a race. It is through the pain of the race that we keep our eyes fixed on the finish line. It is through the awareness of our own limitations that we are strengthened by God to keep going.

The author of Psalm 119 had embraced hard running. He had come to value the things in this life that make it difficult, for he had realised that the harder the run is, the easier the race is won.

Before I was afflicted I went astray
but now I keep your word

Psalm 119:67 (ESV)