Who is in your cloud? When I ask this question, what comes to mind? Or perhaps I should ask, who comes to mind?
I imagine that most of us can call to mind the beloved faces of those whose race is over and who are awaiting the resurrection. I know that I think of family members and brethren whom I look forward to seeing again. I also think of biblical figures whom I want to sit down with and talk to. I have so many questions.
One day, I really want to ask Sarah if she ever struggled with “the going.” Did she ever fight against being uprooted again and again? Did she ever look at Abraham and say, “I am not relocating one more time. I’m done. Count me out.” I wonder about these things because of the many moves in my own life. My husband, David, and I have moved over 15 times in our marriage, seven of those moves being cross-country. As I have struggled at times with our journey, I have often reflected on hers.
Yet when I look at what is written in Scripture, I see that she followed Abraham each and every time. We don’t know if they had words in private because we are not told these details. As much as I want to know how she handled “the going,” I am going to have to wait to ask questions about how she navigated these challenges. I want her to know that her example helped me. During those moves when I wanted to refuse to pack up my own tent—figuratively speaking—I called to mind her example and got to packing.
Sarah is definitely in my cloud. But I will admit to you, that sometimes Sarah, and the rest of the cloud of witnesses, can feel pretty far away. There are many days that I long to pick up the phone and call a friend, to hear the voice of someone on the other end saying, “You’ve got this! You can get through this. You just have to keep moving forward.” I find myself looking for those who are active in my cloud today.
This brings me to Hebrews 12:1-3 Hebrews 12:1-3  Why seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
 Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds.
American King James Version×. “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured the Cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 12:1-3 Hebrews 12:1-3  Why seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,  Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds.
American King James Version×, Holman Christian Standard Bible).
When I study Scripture, I often find that better understanding the meaning of a word or the context that it would have been used in helps me to more fully apply it to my own life. I will be using Strong’s Concordance to help with these definitions.
Surrounded—(G4029)—enclosed, encircled, bound with
Cloud—(G3509)—a large, dense multitude; a throng
Witnesses—(G3144)—a witness; one who is a spectator of anything; those who after his example have proved the strength and genuineness of their faith in Christ by undergoing a violent death
Sin—(G266)—to miss the mark, to wander from the path of uprightness and honor, an offense
When I read this passage, the first thing that grabs my eye is that we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” I love the visual image of being “surrounded.” In my mind, I imagine turning around in a circle and being surrounded and encircled by women pressing in.
While this may not have the same appeal if you are claustrophobic, how amazing it would be to be pressed on all sides by women who are of one mind, heart, purpose and faith, who desire your success, who desire that you be there on “that Day,” and they are pressing in to help you get there, too—women whose lives are an expression of their faith.
Also, I imagine how much easier it would be to “lay aside every weight” and the “sin that so easily ensnares us.” That “weight” is also described as a mass. As someone pointed out to me recently, cancer is certainly a heavy weight to have to deal with. That definitely got my attention.
In December of 2017, I found a lump in my breast that turned out to be cancerous. It amazed me how quickly something so small in truth, became so large in weight. As time went by, the burden of that weight felt like I was being crushed. The women in our local congregation responded by making sure that our family had a regular schedule of meals. They looked for the needs that our family had and responded. Their love and care helped make the weight more bearable. We were not alone. We were surrounded by our cloud.
And then we come to “the sin which so easily ensnares us.” Sin is defined as missing the mark or wandering from the path. I would imagine that we can all think of a friend who has helped us to face the truth when we have missed the mark or wandered from the path. Their love for us was able to get through to us and help us align our path back with God’s path. We all need a friend like this in our life to help us walk that narrow path, and we need to be a friend able to help others walk their own narrow path.
With this cloud of witnesses surrounding us, we are better able to run with endurance the race that is set before us. How amazing it would be to run with a group of women who are running next to you, surrounding you, so that you are moved forward by their strength of example . . . so that even when you are weak, the strength of their witness can help to carry you forward.
I want to be both the woman being surrounded by “so great a cloud” and the woman surrounding other women. I want to help the women running alongside me to run more swiftly and without the weights/cancers of this world to hold them back.
I do have a cloud around me today, a group of women who are actively living out their faith, but it has taken years to build and is still being built. There have been changes to it and additions that only have served to strengthen me as I move forward. I pray that I am also strengthening others.
As I get older, I realize more and more the importance of strong relationships among women. As I seek to be a friend, I also desire to have friends. As I try to be more of a mentor, I still yearn to be mentored. There is a purpose to every season of a woman’s life. Life presents new opportunities to mentor, teach and guide, grow and adapt as we age. So often, those women who have the most to teach, based upon a lifetime of experience, get overlooked and the benefit of their wisdom may go unseen.
Who is in your cloud? Who are the women surrounding you and cheering you to keep going, to throw off the weights and the snares holding you down, so that you might finish the race well? Who are the women who admonish you to keep your eyes on the prize and who are running with you towards the goal? I pray that you have these women in your life. We need to be those women for one another.