by Pam Mertz, ACC, CPLC
We are entering into a season of Thanksgiving and Gratitude for so much – when we reflect on all God has done, what He has provided, shown us, and sustained us with…wow…it is overwhelming. When we fix our eyes on Him, gratitude overflows and in that space we can clearly see all He is doing and stand in awe of Him, praising and giving thanks. However, how do we shift into being thankful in those all-too-frequent moments of struggling, or even very painful circumstances? How do we practically apply this concept of being thankful in all things? Or rejoicing always? It is through the hard things, the sad things, the pain points that we can begin to see this process more clearly.
I am thankful for the gift of perseverance in my life. My story is full of tragic, painful things that began at a very early age. Many of you reading this can resonate with that reality of your own story. Those “what the heck?” moments when we are left wondering “why” these hard things happen, and “how” we will ever survive this thing, let alone learn to thrive once again. It is by understanding how to persevere that we are able to walk in resiliency. Resiliency is a word used often these days in many areas, especially during the pandemic we have been living through.
I have learned to embrace perseverance – a word spoken by Paul often in the Bible- and I now look for it in those painful valleys I have been thrust into at various times in my life. Perseverance is the Greek word, hupumone, which means patient enduring. It is used in many places in the Bible and described by Paul in Romans 5: 1-5 as a necessary ingredient for hope. Take a moment and read that Scripture with me right now (NASB):
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
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.
We get to walk out this perseverance in our lives because of Jesus. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit within us, as a gift. This gift was poured into us, as love, to give us what we need when we need it. If we are able to take a moment to center our thoughts on that truth in those hard times, we will feel hope grow, we will feel hopeful in that inner place of our hearts. It is true and if you stop right now and take that moment, notice how you feel when you realize hope igniting, maybe increasing in you right now. How did that Scripture reading land for you? Take a moment and unpack that if you need to, writing down things that resonated, or became fresh in a new way to you.
This same perseverance was experienced by Jesus while He was on the cross. Hebrews 12:2 talks about while He was enduring the cross…He patiently endured, CHOSE to hang on that cross, for you because of the glory set before Him. I believe that the glory set before Him was each person being saved for all of eternity, paraded before Him by the Father in that moment of enduring. Imagine that…the same patient endurance that held Jesus to the cross is something that Paul is speaking of that we get in times of tribulation, by knowing it brings perseverance. Could this be the “how” to consider things all joy? Because we know the One who knows how things will be used for His glory? I choose to think so.
I know I have seen that play out in my life, personally. Many have asked me how I survived “so well”. I suffered greatly as a child from many forms of abuse, being told by professionals that I should not be functioning given all of the dysfunction I had endured. But God protected me, preserved me so that I could be used by Him to help others that have also gone through various abusive circumstances. By sharing my testimony – how God healed and delivered me, I could help others find hope and the healing He has for them too. I can honestly say that I cannot label or define things in my life as “bad” because God doesn’t define them as such. These are tribulations, hard, very hard things – so very sad and devastating, and yet, able to be used for His purposes. Romans 8:28 says that God causes all things to work together for good, for those that love Him that are called according to His purposes. God doesn’t cause all things…and this is an important distinction when learning how all things can be made new by Him. As I work with clients and friends, I can see how God is using all things in my life to help that “one another” in front of me. He wastes nothing, uses it all. For that I am grateful!
I am thankful for perseverance, that I can lean into God and ask Him for what I need when I need it and He provides it in perfect measure. There is fruit in the hard things we go through. Perseverance produces character and hope – and hope does NOT disappoint. I have this hope, and cling to it, sharing with those in my life, praying that in hope, others can see the love that the Father has for each one of His children. He desperately wants to lavish that love upon us all. How might you see your current circumstances through the lens of thankfulness for perseverance? Who in your life needs to hear this so they, too, can be aware of more hope available to them?