One of the by-products of being physically ill is that all of life looks more difficult, right? Three weeks ago, a tenacious infection settled into my lungs and with it came fever, cough, exhaustion, and yes – discouragement. “Why bother?” I thought. “What’s the use?” I wondered.
Mental health experts confirm that chronic illness is often accompanied by discouragement and, in many cases, depression. Even though I am well aware of that, a sense of futility wrapped itself around my soul. Has this happened to you? Have you encountered a time of illness, or a difficult set of circumstances, or been locked into an emotional struggle that left you tired, feeling alone, and wondering why try to go on?
In those moments, the Holy Spirit brought the Word to mind that calls all disciples to a quality variously called patience, endurance, perseverance, and/or waiting. Peter, in a list of characteristics of the Christian life includes this line. You need “patient endurance.” (2 Peter 1:6, NLT) The writer of Hebrews tells us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV) James points to the suffering saint of the Old Testament as an example: “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:11, NIV)
A clue to the meaning of the call is found in the word used in the first Greek text of the New Testament. That word is hupomone, a compound word that if translated literally would mean, ‘to stand up to the weight, to face the pressure.’ What is our natural tendency when things get rough, when we are overwhelmed? It is to find a way out, to run, to escape into some other place. The Lord’s call is that we take courage, stand, and face the trial! Don’t quit.
So, what’s the difference between endurance and stubbornness?
A stubborn person digs in, becomes defensive, and refuses to adapt.
A persistent one focuses on positive change, looking for ways to meet the challenge and use it to create a new outcome.
There is a old story about Thomas Edison and the invention of the light bulb. He had a vision to create a filament that would glow when electricity passed through it, creating light. He wanted to make electricity so accessible that ‘only the rich will burn candles.’ He made thousands of bulbs, each burning out quickly, failure after failure. Some of his scientists told him his dream was not attainable, that he was trying to do the impossible. But, he persisted and finally found the combination that made a bulb that lasted. Supposedly when he was asked about all those failures, Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Here at the end of 2017, as you reflect on choices made, remember the importance of patient endurance. Perhaps you have enjoyed a wonderful year, full of new friends, prosperity, and good health. If so, give thanks to God, share your joy and look to the New Year with a prayer to use those blessings for His purposes. Just maybe you are looking back on some disappointments, on some hardships that continue to be a point of pain. Endure, not stubbornly, but persistently.
The word from the Word is a promise, not for smooth paths and trouble-free days, but about God’s unfailing goodness. Meditate on it. Let the truth inform your mind and inspire your heart.
“Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31, NLT)
Abba, keep us on our feet, engaged in the work of Your kingdom.
Protect us from the lies that grow in our weariness,
from despair whispered by the father of darkness.
Shine brightly in us and may our trust in You bring us new strength,
renewed vision, and patient endurance that sees Your purpose accomplished.
May Your Kingdom come and Your will be done,
This we pray in the Name of our Savior. Amen