Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima went to Athens to compete in the Olympic marathon. On the last leg of the race, he was in first place. But suddenly a spectator bolted from the crowd and attacked de Lima. He didn’t injure the runner, but the assault lost him precious time and ultimately his hopes for a gold medal. Despite the unfortunate incident and ache in his heart, de Lima finished the race well, even winning the bronze medal. He crossed the finish line with joy—exhibiting a wide smile and dance moves.

In a similar way, though his heart ached with sorrow, the apostle Paul chose joy—something that nothing and no one could take away from him (2 Corinthians 6:10). As he ministered among and agonized over the spiritual welfare of the church at Corinth and other churches, some Corinthians questioned his commissioning, doubted his integrity, and criticized his conduct (2 Corinthians 6:8).

To give no one a reason to vilify his ministry and the gospel, Paul conducted himself as a true servant of God. And to authenticate his ministry, he didn’t hesitate to admit that it had been filled with sorrows—beatings, imprisonment, attacks by angry mobs, exhaustion, sleepless nights, lack of food, as well as being despised, ignored, and called an imposter (2 Corinthians 6:5,8-9). But the apostle didn’t lose heart. Despite personal attacks, he persisted, declaring, “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy” (2 Corinthians 6:10; see also Colossians 1:24).

As we run the race of life, whether from external struggles or the treatment of others, our hearts will inevitably ache with sorrow. Instead of quitting, grumbling, or feeling sorry for ourselves, may we depend on the Holy Spirit to empower us toward a joyful finish (Romans 5:3-5).

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: 1 Samuel 8:1-5