My Mama used to say to me, “Gettin’ old isn’t for the faint of heart.” Believe me when I say she was not faint of heart, certainly weary at times from all the painful suffering she endured; and she definitely longed to be across the finished line. But never faint hearted and more importantly during those more challenging days, she demonstrated endurance -the patient endurance that Paul repeatedly mentions in the New Testament.
Typically, endurance conjures up images of people white-knuckling their way through physically demanding races like tour de France, iron-man races, or swimming across the English Channel. So what does it look like to have endurance as followers of Christ? Three concepts stand out in scripture regarding endurance.
First, endurance is essential to walking in faith. And here’s why: it is a given, an expectation that choosing Jesus and living out the rest of our days faithfully following Him will be challenging. We will have troubles (trials and tribulations) in this world, to quote Jesus. But what else did Jesus say about troubles? “Be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” If He has overcome, we will overcome.
Second, endurance is like a fine sandpaper that God uses to sand away the rough edges of our character. Romans 5:3 says it this way, “Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope.” Endurance shows up when we choose to cling to what God says about us, for example, rather than what the circumstances says about us. As we cling to what God says, our character is refined and proven; an on going process.
Third, endurance comes from Him. Two references caught my attention. Romans 15:5 says God is the source of great endurance and comfort (TPT) and 2 Thessalonians 3:5 is Paul blessing us with “greater understanding of God’s pure love...and into Christ’s steadfast endurance.” (TPT) Ask Him to increase your endurance. He is the source of endurance, after all. Plus, we are one with Christ, we have His steadfast endurance.
So how does it work out practically? How does one run the race with patient endurance? One practice is to lean into the trials and look for His comfort and wisdom instead of turning away. In these times of financial challenges for example, what does He say to you? How is He comforting, instructing, leading? Take some time with Him to ask, “What do You have for me here?” “What are You teaching me about Your character as I face this challenge?”
Another practice is to remember that when these trials/challenges/troubles come at us the enemy will lace them with fear, hopelessness, and helplessness. That’s where he wants us to focus. But Jesus faced His tribulation with “His heart focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his...He endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2 TPT) So instead of focusing on what the enemy is doing, focus on the joy of knowing Him in the process of the trials. God uses troubles to strengthen our faith and build our character. He doesn’t use troubles to prove our worth. He already established our worth by paying the ultimate sacrifice. We can lean to the process and trustfully lean into the steadfast endurance that Jesus pioneered.
Finally, grace, grace, grace. Some trials and troubles are exceedingly tough and seem beyond our capacity. I know it. I have been there. And, like you, I’ve made it through the other side of some of those with white-knuckle endurance, not patient in the least. That’s okay. He doesn’t love us less or withhold His comfort. Plus, just like my mama, we may feel weary and tired of it all. It’s okay, step back, catch your breath, rest, start again. This is the race of a lifetime, not a sprint.