Enduring well?

Last week I wrote on the theme of endurance and how I find it difficult to do so. When we suffer ongoing difficulties, we are tempted to give up hope because when we look at the big picture we cannot see any way of escape or change of situation. Today I’m thinking about healthy and unhealthy endurance patterns.

While remembering the biggest picture (one day with God in heaven) can be helpful when we have time to reflect, it may be better to narrow our focus to the thing at hand when we are in the thick of the battle. I remember seeing a PBS special about a man trying to get down a Himalayan mountain by himself. He had sustained severe leg injuries (both broken I believe). He had no hope of making it back down to camp alive. He was sure he was going to die. But he didn’t give up. He would hoist himself by his ice axe and then fall forward. 10 yards and rest. Then 10 more. He kept his eye on the next 10 yards. Several days later he made it back to camp and to help. Most of us wouldn’t have the strength to do what he did. But we can learn the lesson in the benefit of just looking at the next 10 yards of life.

It is when we step back to reflect on our situation that we face the temptations to become bitter, isolate from the comfort of others (or the opposite–gathering a chorus of voices who will tell me I have a right to be bitter), and begin making demands on God. Now, reflection isn’t bad. In fact, it is necessary. But with reflection comes the opportunity to listen to the wrong voices. There are those who will tell you to give up on God. And there are those who will say that any attempt to try to relief the suffering is a lack of faith. Both voices are wrong.

But narrowed focus on the next thing has its own problems as well. We can put up with things that should not be (e.g., abusive behavior from a boss) and believe that we ought not try to change things because that is trying to do God’s work for him.  We can choose bitter isolating martyrdom over asking others for help.

So, how do you know whether your narrowed focus is Godly endurance or merely learned helplessness?


Filed under Biblical Reflection, Christianity, suffering

7 responses to “Enduring well?

  1. Scott Knapp, MS

    I think if you can answer the question with some degree of accuracy, “How do you know when you are walking in the Spirit, versus walking in the flesh,” you’d have a much better handle on that issue. God can be so paradoxical at times, and something He may call me to endure quietly in one situation would be something He may expect me to attack with righteous anger in another. I’m cautious about looking for a plumb line rule to follow, other than to learn to be sensitive to the Spirit’s lead and conviction.

  2. Elizabeth

    Sometimes, many times I feel like life is an endurance test. Will we hold true to Him? I never feel helpless. I feel helped-all day long, every day in every situation. E

  3. Amy

    It all started with a question–“Can I trust God with the next five minutes?” In the long hall, five minutes of faith at a time has helped me to endure A LOT. Still, other times I have a myopic view of life (anxiety does that), and I’m back to trust God with the next five minutes over and over again.

    I’ll be honest; at times I feel completely helpless and hopeless (thought I must have a bit of hope because I remain). I realize it’s because my focus has shifted from God to self, but I can’t say that I’m always skipping along holding God’s Hands, especially during sustained periods of suffering. Yes, I do wonder if God really is good or in charge or even real. But I know He is good, in charge, and very much real. It’s about constantly reminding myself of God’s truth during everything, which sounds simple, but is really quite difficult at times.

  4. Daniel

    I am really desiring to help people – and I think that being a Christian counselor would be a great way – I could even donate some time whenever possible… and train others. What do you suggest as far as education? There are online schools; there’s also T.I.U. Miami because I live in Miami. I’ll be waiting for the reply. Thx

  5. Elizabeth


  6. Daniel, I’m not a fan of on-line education for counseling. How do you learn to counsel if you are not actively being watched and taught in the classroom? Don’t know much about TIU in Miami.

    Biblical Seminary is a cool place to learn counseling 🙂 Come north to us.

  7. Scott Knapp, MS

    Daniel, Philadelphia Biblical University has a summers-only program that can be completed in three summers for a 60 hour Master’s degree (if time is a constraint and moving is not an option). I agree with Phil…you don’t learn to counsel by reading and responding on-line, you learn by doing it and being supervised. PBU uses the small group lab where counseling students practice their skills learned in the core counseling lecture classes.

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