Perseverance: During Hardships

The other night I got a text from a dear friend.  We were conversing about the tough life situation she finds herself in.  In her heartache she wrote to me: “If only I could foresee the future.  If I could see that my girls would grow up well and have good lives.  And that somehow I would be ok and maybe even happy, I think this time wouldn’t be as hard.” 

How true that is for all of us!  When faced with a challenge, if we have a guaranteed, or at least somewhat guaranteed, outcome, it is much easier to persevere.  A woman in labor knows the pain is temporary and she will be holding a baby soon.  A weight-lifter knows stronger muscles are on the horizon. 

But what about all of these situations that we didn’t choose and have no guaranteed timeline or outcome?  The health diagnosis, the relationship in turmoil, the financial crisis, the toxic workplace, etc.  The problems might be resolved tomorrow, or they might drag on for years.  God might respond with miraculous resolution, or it could get much darker before you see an end.  What hope do we have to cling to during these challenging times? 

There are many scriptures that give us hope and encourage us to persevere.  However, it is still easy get discouraged and fear the unknown.  The things that have helped me the most with getting through hardships is to focus on the known and the things I can control.  Despite the uncertainties of our present, there are guarantees that extend throughout all of the seasons of our lives.  And although things may be crumbling around us, there is always something within our control.

For those of us who do have faith in the Lord, we can find hope in His unchanging character.  We know who He is because He both tells us and shows us.  He is the certainty we have in the midst of our uncertainty.  When I am most afraid of the future I ask myself questions like these:

  • If what I fear most actually happens…is God still good?  Yes.  (1 Chronicles 16:34)
  • If this situation does not resolve in my timeline…is God’s timing still perfect?  Yes.  (Lamentations 3:25-26)
  • If things remain broken beyond my ability to repair…is God still going to restore and redeem?  Yes. (Joel 2:25-26)
  • God has always been faithful…is He still faithful in this?  Yes.  (1 Corinthians 1:9)
  • This does not feel good to go through…but is God going to use it for my good?  Yes. (Romans 8:28)

Then, once I’ve reminded myself of who God is, and His role in my life, I can remind myself of the things I can control.  They build off of each other and create a cascade of hope in my heart.

  • I can control my focus.  Instead of focusing on the parts of my season I do not like, I can choose to look at the blessings I do still have.  There will always be something to be thankful for, even if the list currently feels lopsided towards the negative. 
  • I can control my attitude.  Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I can choose joyful determination.  It might be something I have to fight for daily (or hourly!), but it is still within my control.
  • I can control my response.  I may not like what is happening, but I can look for ways to honor God in the middle of it.  God doesn’t have to wait until the end of a trial to begin using it for His glory.  Looking for ways to encourage others even while the storm still rages around us can strengthen our own hope!

One of my favorite Bible passages about perseverance is Hebrews 12:1-3.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I’ve read it many times over the years, but recently the part about how Jesus handled His trial stood out to me.  For the joy set before him…He endured the crucifixion because He knew joy would come from His obedience to the Father.  So not only should we fix our eyes on Jesus, we can also learn from His example of how He himself endured.  The end result was guaranteed—God would be glorified and Jesus would have joy in His obedience.  It didn’t negate the pain of the moment, but it gave Him the hope to get Him through it.

The end result of our hardships is guaranteed too—God will be glorified.  These things we are experiencing have a Heavenly value that goes beyond what we can imagine here on earth.  They aren’t just about us, but rather God uses them to impact the lives of others and write a beautiful story much bigger than our own.   When we remember to trust God with this, and keep our eyes on Jesus (both Him and His example), we can find the perseverance to endure.

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