by Nan Corbitt Allen
“…Lay aside every encumbrance…which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” Hebrews 12:1 NASB
Recently I felt encumbered. My jeans were digging into my waistline, my shoes were pinching my toes, and my face mask got tangled up in my reading glasses. And those are only the things I’m willing to share! As I was trying to disentangle myself, this Bible passage came to mind. I realize, of course, that this word is not about physical comfort; that kind of encumbrance will inevitably get worse as I get older! This admonition from the writer of Hebrews is a metaphor, using a physical race to make a point.
I’m not a runner, never have been, and probably never will be, but I’ve watched many races in my time as the mother of sons who participated in sporting events. These events were often about speed and endurance; for those competing, being dressed in heavy clothing, carrying superfluous weight, or wearing shoes that were too tight were just not an option.
Some of the burdens in our lives are from the past—failures and successes. Wearing our medals or carrying our trophies, like the winner of a race, can become a burden because it’s impossible to “rest upon” our laurels.
Disappointments and bad decisions can anchor us to our past as well. As my friend, Derric Johnson, says: “My ‘I never could,’ becomes my ‘I could never.’” In other words, just because I failed in the past doesn’t dictate a lack of success in the future.
Paul also used the race metaphor several times. In his letter to the Ephesians, he writes… “lay aside the old self…” (Eph. 4:22) “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you…” (Eph. 4:31)
Bitterness and anger are things we can do without! Holding on to anger toward someone who has done us harm is a huge weight to lug around. Usually, we who hold the grudge are the ones most afflicted by it. Extra baggage.
These kinds of encumbrances affect not only our spiritual and mental well-being, but it can influence our physical health as well. A University of Minnesota study on how fear and anxiety can damage our physical health declares, “Fear [and anxiety] weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility. It can lead to accelerated aging and even premature death.”
How do we throw off the encumbrances? Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Rick Warren, the renowned author and pastor, suggests this to help us to find peace when we feel encumbered:
R—Realize nobody’s perfect.
E—Enjoy God’s unconditional love.
L—Let God handle things.
A—Act in faith, not fear.
X—Exchange your perfectionism for God’s peace.
Cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.
Nan and Dennis live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.
Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Join the conversation: What keeps you from running the race well?