I’m not sure most of us are told to be sure we bring a large portion of endurance with us for our journey through life. It’s common to be reminded to get education, experience, and assorted other things we will need to handle the ups and downs life will hand us from nearly the time we arrive on earth. No one ever told me or likely you to be sure to pack endurance or where to locate it. But it is a necessary companion for us beginning very early in our lives and we need a healthy supply of it until we finish the journey.
Endurance is the power or capacity to last or withstand difficult circumstances, situations, or events without giving way. Lessons on it begin as infants and toddlers when we cannot fend for ourselves and must wait on others to tend to our needs and desires. As children we learn it after accidents on playgrounds and backyard swings and before long, we learn it in disappointment with friends and challenges in school.
My recent accident has reminded me of my need of endurance once again. Endurance always includes waiting for something we want, need, or hope for and if we are honest, none of us are excellent at it most of the time. We tend to have a low tolerance for putting off comfort or things we desire, relief from pain or disappointment. And it is in this waiting that we are often tempted to doubt.
Will anyone see that our cup is empty of whatever we need and fill it? Will they recognize we cannot sort out how to handle what we are facing and may not even know what it is that we need? Will they think we are weak or asking too much if we need them to listen longer or run another errand? Will they still remember the journey is long as we endure loss and grief long after we leave the cemetery or hospital room? Will they accept us when we have always seemed so strong as if we have it all together when we do not? Will they do a better job of listening than offering advice and opinions? Those questions and many others like them are not easy to answer with what we believe would be the most caring and loving because they require something more from us than the offer of a quick prayer and some other kindness.
In the physical realm I have learned a lot about endurance from working with a physical trainer. Exercise and any sporting activity has never been my forte or strong skill set but as I have gotten older, I am very much aware of the need to strengthen my body to be able to keep doing what I would like and to keep me as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Working with Matt in strength training means you will often hear him asking me to do something I am convinced I cannot do. My response will be, “Matt, do you remember how old I am?” He will listen and then tell me that he knows I can do it and persuade me to trust his knowledge of what I am capable of. And I discover I can manage the weight and hold for another 30 seconds or do another repetition after all.
Too often in my life I have exercised the “I can’t” muscle either because I lacked the skill or because I lacked the confidence to even try or because someone had something that created doubt. Matt has beaten back that muscle teaching me a lot about the “I can” muscle that was weaker from lack of use.
Sometimes we don’t make the choice to try because we fear failure that can cripple us if we allow it to rule us. Sometimes we don’t make the choice because to gain endurance we must be willing to be tested and work beyond what we believe are our limits and that seems like a mountain too high and far to climb. But of all these things, I have learned much about endurance from what I read in scripture and how often we are exhorted to gain and hold on to endurance.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans in the New Testament, he lays out where we find endurance:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith, into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”Romans 5: 1-5 (ESV)
If these are not verses you know or know well, go back, and read them again as Paul plainly tells us that it is suffering that produces endurance. Little wonder we don’t go looking for endurance since few of us volunteer to suffer even though it will come to each of us at some point in time in our life. In order to gain endurance, we must grapple with something, suffer through something – sometimes for a very long time. Most of us don’t want to do that anymore than I want to hold a plank with my trainer for another full minute. How we wish life were easier or we could pick and choose the challenges we need to face. But that isn’t life, is it? And if we live long enough, we will have multiple opportunities to grow in our endurance, not only physically, but emotionally, relationally, mentally, economically, and most definitely spiritually as well.
But Paul isn’t the only writer who speaks of endurance in scripture, the writer of Hebrews has one of my favorite passages tucked inside:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”Hebrews 12: 1-2 (ESV)
There it is again, the exhortation to endure and a clear reminder that Jesus endured the cross and suffered unimaginable things for each of us. How much we need to learn from Him and see in his character. We want hard things to be over. We are more eager for his return so the difficulties of this life will end than because we are eager to be with the One who loves us with such a great everlasting sacrificial love.
As we are called to endure and persevere in the midst of difficult things, painful things, and uncertain things, John reminds us in the final book of the New Testament of what we will gain by doing so as he writes the letters to the churches in the second and third chapter.
Many of you are in a season where you are called to endure or persevere not unlike me after the accident I suffered 3 weeks ago with more dental appointments ahead and no certainty of outcome. Sometimes we sense God’s presence in those defining moments but if we do not, we might be tempted to doubt He is there, is good, or sees what is happening. In that moment or length of time, we are called to endure. God is with us. Of that I am sure, but it does not mean we will not experience pain or need to wait or face hard things. Nothing in his story, the Bible, tells us that about this life. He promises to be with us in the midst of whatever we face, and He is always enough even if we are not.