How do you endure hardship?

Life is hard. Harder for some than others. Really, really hard for some, so much that our hardships are rather light and momentary in comparison. Nonetheless, life is hard. And the call of Hebrews 12:1-3 is to persevere, to endure. That has been the message in my church for the last two weeks.

But I don’t like to endure. I was a runner in high school. A good runner though not a great one. One of the reasons I wasn’t better is that I mentally gave up and had the wrong attitude. I would start out well but then the realization of the pain set in. I would mentally think about the distance left. “2 miles to go…I’m only 1/2 way of this awful hill…1 mile to go…the last hill is going to kill me…just stop…maybe you’ll trip over that root…” Not a good way to think when you are trying to do your best and when you live in a hilly part of the world.

Now here’s a funny thing. On my team was one of the best runners in New England. He broke course records wherever he went. Chris liked to run with me and I with him on non-race days. We would run at his pace. I would fall in step just behind him and let the rhythm of his steps capture me and lo-and-behold, I ran fast. Somehow that never worked on race days…

My point is that I don’t like to endure. I want endurance to be short and rare AND to always lead to victory or that thing that I want. There are some people (like Olympians) who seem to be better at enduring pain and hardship with little chance of getting the gold just because there is some other fantastic athlete just ahead of them.

Steve Young (pastoral intern at my church) reminded us of Hebrews 10:36: that we have need of endurance. What??? Yes, we have need so that we receive the promise of a better possession.

So, what is your response to sustained hardship? What do you find helps you maintain your “pace?” What do you use to evaluate how well you are doing in your perseverance?

Since there can be bad kinds of endurance, I’ll write more on that topic later.


Filed under Biblical Reflection, suffering

4 responses to “How do you endure hardship?

  1. Jess

    Hmmm… I’m intrigued about “bad kinds of endurance.” I’ll be interested to hear more.

    I try not to ask “How long?” even though it is a biblical question. As in your running analogy, it tempts me to look at the miles that might still stretch ahead, rather than at the Accomplished Runner showing the way.

  2. Scott Knapp, MS

    I recall reading the preface to the 25th anniversary edition of “The Hiding Place” a few years ago. The couple who authored the book recounted how they first met Corrie Ten Boom. Two Holocaust survivors were speaking at a church the authors were familiar with, one of which was Ms. Ten Boom, the other an unnamed man. Then the first rose to speak, the authors noted that it was evident that the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps had not been exercised from this man’s soul: obvious tremors, gaunt and hollow presence, and a ghostly, far away voice. When Corrie Ten Boom took the the dais, in dramatic contrast she radiated with the joy and love of Christ, her eyes danced and her voice resonated from a full, solid soul. Both entered and emerged from the hell of the Nazi camps; one’s soul faded and died, and the other’s flourished and became more alive than ever! I used this story in the summary of an inductive study I did in grad school on the book of 2 Peter, a Petrine handbook on suffering for the believer. How does Peter exhort us to not only endure, but thrive in the midst of, suffering? “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (2 Peter 4:19, NASB-Updated). Suffering is abhorrent to image bearers who live out of Eden and under the curse…in the midst of suffering of any kind, worshiping God, loving others well and being obedient to God in all things don’t come naturally. The unregenerate man has no capacity whatsoever to accomplish this…sometimes we who are regenerated spiritually don’t do much better (especially me!). In the midst of the worst suffering, I have the capacity to choose to either trust my own abilities to re-establishing my comfort “homeostasis”, or to entrust my soul to God, my “faithful Creator”, and demonstrate evidence of that trust by “doing what is right.” And while God will never be “faithful” with regard to fixing my world and re-establishing a comfortable (or even tolerable) living, He will be faithful to His purpose of making me more like His Son…He is faithful to guarantee that any and all suffering has a purpose. The longer I’ve known Him, the more convinced I’ve become that His purposes are good in spite of the visible evidence in my world, subject to my limited ability to understand it. It’s taken many years for this to become a conviction, and not merely a theological exercise or mere intellectual assent. I’ve had to suffer to get to this point, and perhaps I’d have arrived at this conclusion much sooner, if only I’d chosen to tolerate the loss of comfort, security or significance and endure through, resting on the ever solidifying notion that God is good, regardless. Every incident of suffering, no matter how insignificant, is an opportunity to learn this…how many to we throw away each day that are never to be recaptured or repeated? How much knowledge of the good God who bought us do we flush down the toilet on any given day, simply because we’re still trying to fight our way back into Eden on our own? I endure much more frequently these days out of enhanced trust in God, and to some small degree because of curiosity about what He’s up to in my life.

  3. jangle

    I really like your last sentence Scott and I resonate in agreement. I too was a runner in HS and after college, and now again so enduring is key. I so appreciate your comments Phil about having someone fall in step with you, which makes the run seem to capture me and the miles not as grueling. A nice life parable is occurring presently with my son who is “away” from not only his blood family but also his spiritual family presently and some days he is enduring the final mile. He then becomes refreshed as he meets with his mentor and is encouraged to keep at the task, don’t give up yet, just one more mile, and the miles get easier after the glance back and we can see we are not where we were last week or last year. We persevere because we seek encouragement from a fellow brother/sister, we remember the prize at the end of the run. The satisfaction of completing the race, the crown we receive that we in turn lay at His feet.

  4. One of the attributes of God is endurance. He said to Moses, as he declared His name, The Lord, The Lord God, Merciful, Gracious, Long-suffering. See Exodus 34. Well, the long-suffering attribute can be translated as patience or endurance. So we are repeatedly called to patience in the scriptures because God is so deeply patient with us. Let Patience have her perfect work, declares James 1:4. You are in need of patience, says Hebrews. It calls out for patience because the nature of its author, that is God, is patient. We must be like Him.

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