Clicks, info at the finger tips, instant gratification! Endurance isn’t a much-touted character trait in our culture.
But things to be endured are piling up. It’s a different scene, and I’m having to remember some everyday, fact-of-life circumstances that, as a regular thing, required endurance—nine months of pregnancy, for example, and the turning of months from May to December as the children ask, How long till Christmas? We’ve always had to wait for test results—even when malignancy is the question. The speediest process won’t bring the word on a weekend, the wait longer if a holiday is involved. Now, the internet goes down and panic ensues. The battery of the cell phone dies in a critical conversation—a crisis. As Americans, we aren’t very good at waiting. But cakes take time to bake, tomatoes to ripen, ice cream to freeze, those big sweet potatoes in the oven need a lot of time to get soft.
Whether we own it or not, we know we’re used to getting what we want when we want it. In addition, many products sell these days because they serve our convenience. Confronted with adversities that won’t be quickly fixed, we’re faced with some unexpected questions. What about the grit to stick out a difficulty? Is that sort of thing still a virtue? True, it’s sometimes required but maybe not often enough to get our attention. What about persistence and patience? Do we think of these as admirable traits?
Maybe the thing to be endured isn’t just a long wait. I remember middle-of-the-night earaches that afflicted my childhood. The hot pad helped, but pain troubled the darkness much longer than I wanted! Then there’s chronic pain or persistent illness or a long-term effect that stays around though sickness has passed. The onset of failing sight, hearing loss, conditions that resist treatment are trials to be borne, often irreversible. Is the ability to see these hardships through a virtue? The word endurance is this in a nutshell–the fact or power of persisting “through an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” Suffering Christians understand what that means!
The Spartans celebrated endurance, and their code vanquished many an adversary less toughened. The person who comes to mind from Ancient Israel is Job. He certainly didn’t put up with trouble. Read those many chapters recording his complaints and the negative responses they prompted. However, when he complained, he never cursed God. Though he wailed for God to come on the scene and explain what all this was about, he held on to the truth. James says, “Look! We think those are blessed who endure. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord” then adds, “how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5: 11). Somehow, those aren’t the divine qualities springing to mind here, we may be thinking. But keep reading. In the end, Job had to intercede for his critics or God would reject them entirely.
In fact, when we look at the final outcome, we see that Job was fully vindicated. God paid him the ultimate compliment by allowing the devil to afflict him. Job was spiritually strong enough to persist despite the cynic’s contention that he (or anyone) couldn’t love God apart from his blessings. Job, complainer though he was, refuted all that. From Moses to Malachi, lovers of God have overcome many troubles.
When Paul analyzes the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), endurance (or variously, patience, forbearance, longsuffering) is listed. He tells the Romans, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character”(Rom 5: 4), linking it with hope. He calls the Almighty “the God of endurance and encouragement” (Rom 15: 4, 5). Paul says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13: 7). We are charged to endure: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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” (Heb 12: 1b-2). The noteworthy overcomers (Rev 2: 7b, 11b, 17b; 26; 3: 5, 12, 21) gain the title because they have endured. They’ve walked through suffering into victory. A tall order? Maybe, but Jesus is our model, as well as the supplier of every resource we need to persist and get there.
from the Edgefield Advertiser, the oldest newspaper in South Carolina, September 22, 2021.
with thanks to taylor-young-SCzXnuJmWoo-unsplashf for the great image.