“I didn’t think you were coming back,” the fitness instructor said when she saw me coming through the door. I can understand her comment, since after my first attempt in class I had whined about battling head-to-toe muscle aches for days afterwards. But despite feeling like I had been run over with a Mack truck after exercising, something in me said, “don’t quit after one try.”
The morning the class rolled around again, I awoke to my radio playing the song “Stronger,” by Mandisa. The first words to reach my ears were, “The pain ain’t gonna last forever, and things can only get better; Believe me, this is gonna make you stronger.” Obviously she wasn’t singing specifically about my attempt at strengthening my muscles, but I smiled at God and considered it a wink of encouragement to pull on my stretch pants again that night.
My exercise teacher’s response made me think back a few years to my first day at a new job. I was introduced to a tiny but tough-looking woman who was retiring from the position I was filling. Having been in the job for at least a millennium, she quickly conveyed the not-so-subtle message that no one could possibly fill her shoes – and that she fully expected me to fail miserably.
She bombarded me with non-stop information the first day, as if to intentionally overwhelm me. I left exhausted, but showed up again promptly before 8:00 a.m. the next morning. When she saw me, she peered over her glasses with a somewhat amused look and said, “Oh, I wasn’t sure if you were coming back!” That did it. The rest of the week I steeled myself with the attitude of, “bring it on, lady!” I went on to not only master the job, but I’m pretty sure that I “left the campground better than I found it” when I was recruited by a different employer
over a year later.
It would have been easy to crumble under the pressure of that training week, or give up after that first painful exercise class, but choosing to persevere was the better alternative. Why? Because perseverance, though rarely easy, usually leads to long-term rewards.
I think back to my freshman year in college, when I battled severe homesickness. I not only missed my family and friends, but was desperately afraid of failing. At the end of weekend visits at home, I would lay my head in my mother’s lap and sob because it was time for me to return to campus. But out the door I went, every time, until I finally grew to enjoy college life almost a year later. In fact, I ended up staying for six years and graduating with two degrees!
The Bible speaks frequently of perseverance, especially in the face of struggle. The story of Job is a classic example. Though he lost his family, his possessions, and his health, Job persevered and refused to “curse God,” even when his own wife urged him to do so. Job was not without questions, but he still remained faithful—and eventually his suffering was replaced with restoration and healing. Job’s enduring faith is recounted in James 5:11 where it says, “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
Maybe you are facing a situation where it would be easier to quit, or curse God rather than stick it out. Let me acknowledge, there are situations when it is appropriate to bail. There have been times in my career when I wisely chose to leave toxic work environments. I have friends who have appropriately severed abusive relationships. Truthfully, there are also situations when persevering leads to disappointing results, like my current investment of almost three years in bi-weekly allergy shots that don’t seem to be making much difference.
Yet I still believe the power of perseverance is a highly overlooked and untapped discipline in today’s “immediate gratification” society. How many blessings and “happy endings” have we missed because we have given up too soon? As Thomas Edison, the great inventor said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
May I encourage you, my friend, to evaluate the opportunities for perseverance in your life right now? Maybe it’s something that involves healthy habits, like eating better, exercising regularly, or reading your Bible consistently. Perhaps it’s something relational, like parenting a wayward child, sticking with a friend who’s struggling, or remaining faithful and committed to your spouse when your romantic feelings are waning. Maybe you have a God-given goal or dream, but seem to keep running into obstacles. Perhaps you are enduring a long-term or life-threatening health challenge, or are the primary caregiver of someone who is.
Like with Job, the answer, the relief, the break-through, or the precious divine strength to keep pressing on is on its way (even if it doesn’t feel like it). As you place your trust in God and seek His will, your perseverance will lead you to see “what the Lord finally brought about.” Since you can be sure it will be rooted in God’s compassion and mercies, it will be worth the struggle, worth the commitment, and worth the wait, no matter the outcome.
Additional verses about perseverance:
Bible – New International Version
“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” Hebrews 10:36.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” James 1:12.
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” Hebrews 12:1.
“. . . the testing of your faith produces perseverance” James 1:3.
“I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” Revelation 2:10
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” James 1:4.
P.S. What do you think of the new singledevotion layout/design?