Watch your perseverance bring you to hope.
Today I was sitting with my friend Jen, and we were talking about the hard stuff – the trials we were walking through. She is pushing through grief, while I’m trying to figure out a stable foundation after a lot of change. It got me thinking of how we handle trials, and what role perseverance plays.
It got me thinking – each and every single one of us humans go through trials. We all hit hardship at some point in our lives, and no one is exempt from difficulty. And though we all struggle, we all handle these struggles differently.
Superheros & villains
Consider this in superhero movies. The superhero always has a story of suffering that he went through, and it makes them stronger. Batman’s parents died, which led him to fight for justice. Superman’s whole planet died, so now Earth is his home and he protects it. And Spiderman was an outcast, so he fought for people who couldn’t stand for themselves, and his primary caregiver, Aunt Mae, tragically died. All of these trials give each of these people their character, and it makes them the literal character that they play in the movie.
The villains in the superhero movies face trials too, but they handled their trial in a different way. Instead of letting the trial make them stronger for the greater good, they let the trial make them sour about the world, and it brings out their worst side.
This brings me to a verse that’s really been on my mind lately and is good news for any of us going through a painful time of suffering.
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”(Romans 5:3-5)
How can perseverance lead to character, and character, hope? And what do each of these stages look like? I thought long and hard about this, which led me to the realizations below.
When trials come, we have two options. To let them take us down, or to let them make us stronger. Kelly Clarkson says that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but that’s only if it doesn’t kill you. And you have to work so it doesn’t kill you, steal your joy, or take away your hope.
Some synonyms for perseverance are determination, endurance, and patience. It’s fighting the good fight even when you can’t see any sign of your situation getting better.
But none of this endurance is possible without God. Meaning, you can persevere not on your own, but through God’s strength. You can let God carry you through whatever it is and let him be strong for you in this time.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.2 Corinthians 12:9
Sometimes, when I’m having really bad days, I wake up in the morning and go, God, I have no idea how the heck I am going to get through this day. Or how I’m going to get through XYZ. I need you to be my strength today. I barely have anything to give today, but I’m trusting you to provide for me and get me through today.
God loves these prayers because it’s through these seasons where we can see his strength shine the most.
Patience in Perserverence
In other translations of this verse, they’ll use the word patience instead of perseverance. Though this might seem like an odd combo, the root of the word patience comes from the word suffering. Suffering and patience are directly linked.
And the definition of patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”
So perseverance and patience in your trial are one and the same. You run fast, you go through it with determination, and you have the patience for the outcome. You persevere in the waiting.
When the walls of my stable life came tumbling down this past season, all I had left was the deepest part of me. I had to dig deep and grab the strength to keep going.
And trust me, many times I screwed up, made mistakes I shouldn’t have, thought thoughts I shouldn’t have thought. But that’s where the patience comes from. I was patient with myself, with the process, with my circumstances. And I continue to persevere through the season I’m in, fighting the good fight.
Now, after we’ve persevered, this is where the character comes in.
Think of the most boring people in your life. Honestly, they are probably boring because they haven’t gone through something with the endurance to build their character. Or, they’ve just had it easy their whole life, so there’s not much substance to them.
The wisest, most interesting people I’ve ever met have gone through hell and back. My favorite fictional characters have all endured great loss and faced deep pain. Would I like them as much if they hadn’t endured their trials? Probably not.
The best versions of ourselves don’t come out when everything is going amazing – the best versions of ourselves come out in the midst of trial. Because that’s where we grow. That’s where the real stuff comes out, and we see what we have to work with.
I think of the song “New Wine” by Hillsong Worship. It’s all about God using circumstances to make something new, whatever He wants you to be. God will use this struggle to mold you into the person He knows you’re destined to be.
The last step to moving through suffering is hope. Because you got through this trial, you can get through any other sh*t that gets thrown your way. If God can carry you through this, he surely can carry you through anything. The stuff in the future you will be ready for because of the character and strength you built up by fighting the struggle.
Your character leads to hope because we see how God can carry us through any turmoil, any storm, any battle. That’s how strong he is. We can know that we don’t need to be afraid of anything because if he can carry us through this storm, well, then, bring on the friggin tsunami.
It reminds me of this verse:
“I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”Romans 8:39
Because of God’s love, and his favor, we can hope that He’s going to work our lives out for the good. My favorite definition of hope is a confident expectation of good.
Hope = a confident expectation of good.
So I don’t know what trial you’re going through right now. But I know you have control over how you respond to it.
You can either let it destroy you, ruin your outlook on life, and think that you’ll never recover. You can let your situation swallow you hole and let you become bitter and angry, and a worse version of yourself.
OR, my friend, you can choose the option that has a much better outcome. You can endure, fight, and persevere through whatever battle you’re walking through. Don’t have the strength? You can lean into the God that is carrying you and fighting for you. After fighting, you can lean into the character that is being built inside you, the warrior you are becoming. The fighter that’s always been there, but just needed a little kick in the butt to show up.
And from there, you can hope in a God that will carry you through the most horrific storm. You can have the hope that because of the strength of your character, you can carry someone else out of the same pit you were in. And you can know just how powerful your God is, and just how strong you really are.