Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

In this series, I would like to address some concepts we don’t hear much about these days in the regular course of life. However, in the Scriptures they have been given significant importance. We neglect these “forgotten concepts” at our peril.

Endurance

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” –James 1:2-4 (NIV)

We were doing fine until  . . .

The storm blew in, the car broke down, my wife became ill, I was diagnosed with cancer . . . Fill in the blank. We hear the news, we read the stories and we relate to people everywhere who are asked to cope with a seemingly endless list of trials and tragedies.

Sometimes It doesn’t take a lot to throw us off course. The unexpected situations of life that often beset us can throw us sideways or even shut us down.

Almost weekly I hear of another person who was moving through life apparently with a genuine faith and trust and God and then along came an unexpected setback. Obviously, everyone’s situation is distinct but one thing seems to be consistent – most who don’t persevere seem to depart from their faith because a traumatic event or situation wasn’t resolved according to their desires.

Other times we are beset with problems we never asked for that have little to do with our choices – Our parents suffer chronic illnesses or our children end up with addiction issues. If it’s not us personally it’s a close friend or family member.

After spending a six months this year back in the USA and travelling over twelve thousand miles by car, talking to many people along the way, never did I encounter an individual I knew personally who was not dealing with some very serious matter or awkward person in their family or circle of influence.

Everyone, including myself, is having to draw on strength beyond themselves to persevere in their present context of life.

What is endurance? Why do some endure, and others do not? What makes the difference?

In my view,endurance or perseverance is the resolve to stay on course with God’s plan and purpose for your life regardless of storms and setbacks that come your way. It’s basically staying the course for the long haul.

One reason why I believe many of us do not endure well is the flawed expectation that life should be easy. We live in an era of entitlement. We expect results without the suffering and sacrifice it takes to commit to a process which will lead to the outcomes we are seeking.   

Last Christmas I was beset with a horrible case of influenza. I felt next to death for a week. It easily took another month to fully recover. I must admit I was peeved that I had to endure the flu, but then many others had it just as bad and even worse. I was able to recover at home and I wasn’t even docked for time missed at work.  Many around me ended up in hospitals so full that they had to recover in the corridors. A part of me felt, “why me?” On the other hand it had been years since I last had the flu so, “Why NOT me?”

I used to think endurance had a lot to do with gritting my teeth and putting up with difficult situations until they passed. Unfortunately, that only resulted in lingering frustration and anger. After further thought and reflection I think that one’s inner core beliefs are the difference maker when it comes to perseverance.

Look at what the apostle James says in the passage quoted above, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

Something in how we are created by a wise and loving God while living in this broken world reflects the reality that we will never fully mature without endurance.

God’s desire for us is also reflected in James’ words, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Despite our suffering, God is still good and meets us in the process of our pain so that we can come out the other end as stronger, mature people.

I’m just recently getting back to my gym routine. I can easily spot the men and women who endure difficult, consistent workouts. They are the ones with the slim, muscular figures and the fit bodies. Why should the spiritual realm be any different?

I’m learning that in the suffering I must endure (which is really pretty minor compared to many others I know) God is giving me a much bigger, long-term view of Himself and His purposes.

The Christian counselor and author Larry Crabb writes, “Trouble is inevitable.  Endurance is necessary.  Our high call from God is to trust Him and to trust His heart, a heart filled with love.  Nothing can happen to us or in us that He cannot work together for our good.“  When God’s Ways Make No Sense, Chapter 11, “The High Calling to Trust.”

When beset with unexpected suffering I know that my core beliefs are challenged. I have to come back to a place of trust in God and His greater purposes for my life, my friends and my family. Maybe that’s why endurance is such a key component of maturity and why it’s often such a forgotten concept in these days of entitlement.

God wants access to the very core of our being, where ultimate decisions are made and we align our lives with His greater good. This is the intimate space where endurance and maturity meet. 

Read Full Post »

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

Now that I’ve hit age sixty, I think I’m finally beginning to see that my desire for personal comfort is somehow contrary to my desire for personal growth. Why do all the major lessons we seem to learn in life have to come the hard way?

This week the famous golfer Gary Player was being interviewed by the Golf Channel in La Quinta, California where the Humana Challenge is currently being played on the PGA tour. Those who are familiar with Mr. Player know that he has been a health and fitness advocate long before professional golfers knew much about how H & F would bring them to a higher level of competition.

Gary Player has never been one to take the comfortable route in life. Speaking of the health of the average American he said something to the effect that it would be easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than to get the average American to go to the gym and eat a healthy diet! He advocated eating less and walking more as a creative, less painful alternative!

Those of us like myself, who serve in professions where we work with people and love to see them develop are always interested in the dynamics of change and growth. What are the barriers that hinder our growth and development?

After having come through a season of life when I faced some tough discipline issues myself I have come to see that the path of least resistance looks pretty good to most of us, whether it be a physical, emotional, spiritual or relational challenge.

The writer to the Hebrews in the verse above observes the type of discipline that our Heavenly Father often imposes on His children for their good and well-being. The discipline may be painful – cutting out undesirable habits or unhealthy patterns of relating to others. But the good part is that after the discipline has run its course it produces a harvest – one of genuine righteousness and peace.

Recently in conversation with a good friend we just happened to observe that there are people in our lives who tend to cause us pain and “push our emotional buttons.” Quite simply we feel judged around them or inferior because of the ways we interpret or filter messages they send us. I notice that I tend to withdraw from such people for my own sake. Preferring comfort to change and growth, we withdraw and accept the status quo.

It looks selfish when you really examine it.

Not surprisingly, I have several friends in the counselling field. One of them told me on one occasion that the human heart is as soft as a marsh mellow so we tend to encase it in armor for comfort and protection. This is a natural response to the wounds we have suffered in the past.

I’m finding in these years that it takes courage to risk being hurt and rejected to really have a life of growth and positive change. When we move toward others in love our marsh mellow heart may get wounded, but the results may be a harvest of “righteousness and peace” further down the road.

The price of genuine growth is never cheap, but it’s well worth the pain and the price over the long haul.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: