“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
As Christians, that isn’t always easy.
The kids don’t behave and they don’t always listen. We’re trying to finish a project at work but there are constant setbacks. In our marriage, the same old problems keep rising to the surface.
For many of us, the act of godly perseverance looks a lot like martyrdom without any hope for revival. We’ve learned to accept our circumstances and to yet keep pushing ourselves.
That’s been hard during the last year. Civil unrest is widespread, the pandemic is still impacting our daily routines, and the struggle to make ends meet during a volatile economy is still a real issue.
We are in the midst of a new political season and there is hope about our health crisis finally coming to an end, but there’s also a sense that perseverance has become less about persisting through a temporary season and more about accepting our fate.
While that isn’t true – hope is alive and well! — it’s tempting to think of perseverance as scraping by through life and assuming things will not get any better. Think of someone who is traveling on a dark road in the middle of a storm. His face is downturned; he’s persevering through adversity. The man knows he has many miles to go, but still he presses forward. The dark cloud is all around him.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Godly perseverance is more about hope than a downturned face. In fact, for the man on that road, it means looking up toward our destination, setting our sights on an eternal reward we know is coming in the end. Instead of “struggling through it” we can view godly perseverance as more of a motivation and an attitude, as less of a daily struggle and more of an engine propelling us forward.
We don’t have to slog our way through life, dragging our feet along and waiting for something to change when we know it probably won’t. It will! It always does! It’s time to view real perseverance as facing the obstacles of life knowing that, while they may not be temporary, they are always earthbound. God is always with us, giving us hope. Perseverance is movement catapulted by hope.
Recently, I spoke to a Houston area pastor named Keion Henderson who wrote a book called “The Shift: Courageously Moving from Season to Season.” I asked him about this idea of obstacles and setbacks, about how there is a temptation to view struggle as part of life and something we have to accept.
He surprised me when he said that obstacles are often more like reminders – we should not view them as negatives and persevere through them but as more about making progress. They are like signposts suggesting that, yes, this is the life we are living and we only have one chance on the planet to make a difference. There is no time for slogging or dragging our feet. “If you get to a place where something in life is easy, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Anytime you are heading up, it is narrow,” he says.
What does that mean in the context of godly perseverance? It means everything. No martyrdom, only hope. No slogging through life, only eternal rewards. Henderson said, no matter what you go through in life, you are still in your own skin. You are still the same person God created you to be. He was clear about one thing: whether you are in a trial or in a smooth period of life, God is still with you. He is still guiding, he is still calling out to you and asking you to follow him. He is still providing hope.
A proper definition of godly perseverance, then, is not a persistent grind. It’s not walking down a dark road and pushing ourselves forward. It’s a process of completely reorienting ourselves to the mission that drives us toward Heaven; it’s a daily exercise filling up our souls and our minds with God’s hope.
Instead of the man walking on a dark road, think of perseverance as something totally different. You will always have the hope of Christ in you. Even if it seems as though the sun is not shining and the path looks dark, the true reality is that the sun is still shining – you can’t see it at the moment.
This reorienting and redefining of perseverance won’t be easy. We all know the phrase: the perseverance of Job. We tend to think the definition of that is – the struggle and pain of Job. What if that’s not quite right? Job knew he had hope. He knew he would face victory in the end. Maybe he questioned that a few times, but he eventually found what he was looking for: hope.
The perseverance of Job was the hope of Job. It was the conviction of Job that God would resolve and revive his life. True perseverance is all about godliness, faith, hope, love, and brotherly kindness. It is eternally optimistic. It is about living a godly life with patience and goodness, of letting the Holy Spirit guide your life in a way that doesn’t look at all like struggle but looks like hopeful persistence.
Job’s perseverance was not about the grind of life or the circumstances. It was always about persevering through trials in a way that holds tightly to God’s promises with a firm grip. God is always there with you, filling up your lungs and your spirit, propelling you in a way that is not possible otherwise.
In the end, godly perseverance is not a struggle. It is an on-going assurance of hope.
John Brandon currently serves as the Digital Media Director at Northwestern Media. He is a well-known journalist who has published over 15,000 articles on social media, technology, leadership, mentoring, and many other topics.