My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.
-James 1:2-4 NET
How did your heart respond when you noticed this month’s topic of endurance? With a sigh? Hope for an insight or two? I’ve wanted to think about endurance with freshness. Here’s the irony: endurance requires “remaining under.” Picture a person successfully carrying a heavy load for a long time. Friedrich Nietzsche called this “a long obedience in the same direction.”*
Endurance, perseverance, steadfastness, tenacity. These synonyms even include a sense of cheerful constancy. They are the opposite of faltering or giving up. Yet for all of the active language embedded in these words, James curiously calls us to “let” endurance do its work. What does that look like?
Ten years ago, I was surprised by a later-in-life pregnancy. My husband and I talked soberly and quietly about what this would mean for me, for us, for the baby’s development. And I remember the choice I faced: I could endure this by trusting God, or I could buckle beneath a weight of fear. To help me choose faithful endurance, I created the mantra, “I love You, and I trust You.” I said it to God throughout my day and when I woke at night. Those words of trust drove my roots deeper into the ground of God’s faithful goodness. I was determined to endure with an open heart.
In the end, I miscarried. I grieved having to say goodbye to an unexpected life, but I gained through my loss, too. Through that emotional-physical-faith struggle, I developed greater spiritual stamina. And I experienced first-hand the mysterious love of God that joins us in our pain. Sometimes enduring isn’t a matter of inner drive but of letting God have His way with a trusting heart.
ACTION: What trials are you experiencing right now? On a scale of 1-10, how stretched to the limit do you feel? Describe your attitude in your current circumstances. What would it look like for you to “let” endurance have its way in your heart?
*As quoted by Eugene H. Peterson in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p. 17