I am learning “endurance” right now…the hard way.
Although, I suppose there is no easy way to learn such a thing.
We can read millions of words about endurance in order to learn it, but we will only learn about it that way. Endurance is one of those things we can only “learn by doing”…and that learning process usually isn’t much fun.
Recently I said that I got through the day when evening came, and thanked GOD for it. But meditating on it a little longer, I realized this: I lived through the day but “enduring” is more than existing through the day or a situation – it involves our attitude. Just as it is with the close relatives of endurance – patience and perseverance - getting through a day, or enduring something is properly accomplished by keeping a God-approved attitude throughout…and that is difficult. At least it is for me sometimes. It is also not possible to “just do it” by our own strength – it requires a real relationship with Adonai, not just a casual acquaintance with Him and claiming to be one of His followers.
One of our human weaknesses is our tendency to dwell on our bad circumstances, and when we do that we spiral downhill to depression and discouragement so very easily. We soon end up wondering if we will ever come out of the valley we’re in. I have done this so many times that it is embarrassing to admit.
Something else I have done a lot is to try to find the key to getting out of those valleys, or better yet, avoid them altogether.
Now, as nice as avoiding the valleys altogether sounds, the reality of that is something that we actually would not want. Sometimes called “desert places,” it is in the valley/desert where GOD often chooses to teach us valuable lessons as He did with Moses, preparing him to shepherd Israel out of Egypt. Just the phrase “desert experiences” or being in a “valley” rings of feeling alone, forgotten, tired, maybe somewhat afraid, etc. We usually pray for GOD to get us out of a situation when we should be asking Him to teach us, knowing it makes us stronger – asking Him what He is trying to teach us, what He wants us to learn. We need to embrace what He has for us, pleased that He is teaching us in preparation for what is coming our way. It took a while to get that beyond my head and into my character, and truth be told, I still sometimes slip back into wondering if I will ever get out of this three-year-long (so far) valley. No, we wouldn’t want to avoid those trying times as long as we know that GOD uses them to teach us what He knows we need to learn. The alternative would be that He would not love us enough to teach us and that is a scary thought.
I have read several articles that say to pull out of a valley or get over depression, just serve someone else. That sounds a little bit simplistic but in practice, this slow-learner has finally “got it” and I can tell you that simple concept is worth more than it might appear at first glance. Maybe other people don’t have a very hard time mustering up the gumption to go do something to serve someone else when they are depressed or discouraged, but I, for one, am quite capable of moping, dragging around the house like I have just lost my best friend, and in general avoiding all people – no problem at all for me. But the joy that slips into my heart when I deny self for long enough to focus on someone else’s needs is a great comfort and encouragement to me. All of a sudden that valley doesn’t look quite so dark.
Another “home remedy” is to start thanking and praising GOD for His amazing greatness and love for us. Yes, I have a little more inclination to do that than the first option but it really can be difficult. It isn’t that GOD hasn’t given us enough to work with for sure. It’s that “I just feel so crummy that I can’t even think of anything good” or some other such foolishness. It is downright humiliating to admit, but I have said such things.
And one teaching that simply does not apply to my current desert valley… I went to church this morning. The message was on Hebrews 12:3-17 focusing on “Insights on Endurance” and the “root of bitterness” of verse 15. It wasn’t focusing on our eternal relief from the unGodliness we experience on earth, which I was glad of. However it did concentrate a lot on our reaction to someone doing us wrong – another good thing to think about. Unfortunately, there was nothing at all said about someone who has done us wrong and keeps on doing it, or being the innocent target of someone else’s mistreatment. Welcome to my valley of trials.
I think of Job - “blameless, upright, fearing God” (Job 1:1 NASB) and how he had a few questions as to why all that bad stuff was happening to him. One vital fact we need to pick up from the story of Job is put so well by Tim Tebow in his book Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity In The Midst of Life’s Storms when he says, “God left Job with unanswered questions, but it is imperative to recognize that God never left Job.”
Psalm 34:18 (NASB) “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
And He will not leave us, whom He loves just like He loved Job.
That set my feet on a path of pursuing that scripture most of us are very familiar with in that poetic form of the KJV, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37 KJV)
As I researched this well-known scripture, I found that much of the teaching, devotionals, and sermons are geared toward our eternal destiny and how we will have the ultimate victory living in heaven. This is absolutely undoubtedly true but what went through my mind was, “but that doesn’t help me day after day now, in this life. I still have to get up every morning and take 17,000-30,000 breaths of air - or more, and somehow, somewhere, find the incentive to do what I need to do.” So I will be focused on what I found more helpful for being a nitty gritty day-to-day conqueror.
The first logical step was to look up the keyword “conqueror” in a good reference book.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
Strong's Number: g5245 Greek: hupernikao
"to be more than conqueror" (huper, "over," and No. 1), "to gain a surpassing victory," is found in Rom 8:37, lit., "we are hyper-conquerors," i.e., we are pre-eminently victorious.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia has a good explanation of the phrase “more than conquerors” that articulates what I am saying, more clearly than I have.
“Known only in the compound verb (hupernikomen, Romans 8:37):
A usual meaning of the preposition in composition is "above all measure"; hence, "more than conquerors," the Revised Version (British and American), the King James Version. The comparison is to the completeness of the victory. Others may place their enemies in subjection; those here mentioned master not only their foes, but themselves. Others destroy their foes and their resources; while those who are "more than conquerors" convert foes into means of still farther promoting the interests for which they struggle (Romans 3:37). Nor is the victory external and transient, but internal and permanent.” H. E. Jacobs
So often we overlook the clear teaching of scripture that tells us we are already conquerors, even if we are still right in the middle of what seems to be an impossible trial! For us to be defeated we would somehow have to be separated from the love of Christ, and we know that is not possible. Spiritual victory is not dependent upon our circumstances – it is dependent upon our relationship with Messiah. We may find ourselves stuck in our particular desert valley for longer than could be necessary because we have not learned these things, adopted them and made them part of our nature. God will give us what He knows we need in order to accomplish what He designed for us to do before we were ever born. Sometimes it means deserts and valleys.
There are some things we can try to bring to our minds as we try to fend off the things that prevent us from being the overcomers, the conquerors that we already are:
Jeremiah 1:19 (NASB) "They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you," declares the LORD.”
Luke 10:19 (NASB) "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.”
1 John 4:4 (NASB) “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
Always remember it is HIM who causes us to prevail against the enemy lest we fall into the error so many people do who try to live for Christ based on their own power… it is only when we let Christ live through us that we will be successful overcomers and conquerors. And the bad guys just better watch out because Nahum 1:2 says, “A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies.” And we know that anyone who does harm to one of His own is an enemy of GOD. We can have confidence that He will bring us the victory.
2 Corinthians 2:14 (NASB) says “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” And 1 Corinthians 15:57 (NASB) “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Sometimes we bring suffering upon ourselves by being disobedient to our Lord, and we then of course, have nothing to complain about. But there are times when we find ourselves suffering for no reason we can perceive such as Psalm 44 describes. Those are the times that are harder to endure because we tend to think of the situation as unfair, as punishment we don’t deserve. However, such circumstances are evidence of the love of Christ for us because they make us more like Jesus, the very thing we should be striving for! I realize that knowing these things ought to be is much different than having them a part of our character so much so that our first thought is to say to ourselves, “GOD has this under control. I am more than a conqueror because of Him,” rather than starting to slide down that spiral of doom. I sure wish I knew a shortcut to making that part of my nature – this learning by doing is getting wearisome.
In her little book What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days, Holley Gerth wrote: “There will come a time when every truth you’ve ever heard will seem to ring hollow. You will forget everything you’ve ever heard about how God is good. You will not believe that you’re going to make it. This one thought will come again and again: make the pain stop. By knowing that time will come, we can push through to the other side. We can somehow cling to the promise that God is there and He will deliver us. And that pain really can lead to new life.
God is your deliverer.
He brought you from your mother’s womb when you took your first breath.
He delivers you in the hard moments when it feels as if you will never catch your breath again.
And He will deliver you from this life to the next when you take your final breath and enter eternity with Him.”
I would rather be the strong, got-it-all-together Christian woman who has been a believer in Jesus Christ our Savior for 46 years, who people can look to for help, but… I still have to work at overcoming that natural weakness to spiral downward… however, I realize I cannot do it myself, and if I persevere and do my part, God will lead me out of this desert valley to victory.
Romans 5:3-5 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
3 And not only this, but [a]we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.