Perseverance in times of Struggle

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Do you know those people who always seem to have a smile on their face? They seem to have a cheerful outlook on life, even as things around them might be falling apart. I often wonder how those people live their life like that! I admire them in one way. But on another hand I think, “Are they in denial about what’s going on?”

Then I read this verse from James and think, No, these people just have a great amount of faith. They know that life isn’t supposed to be easy. It can be unfair. You can be dealt a “bad hand.” But guess what? You get through it. With faith, with a good attitude, with support from others to keep you going, you get through your trials.

Testing our faith develops perseverance, according to James. I hear the word perseverance and I always picture a soldier going through bootcamp. Or a runner racing to the end of the finish line. I suppose I picture something physical like this instead of mental. But we know most of our “trials” in life are mentally and spiritually demanding, too. Like when we lose a loved one. Or lose a job. Or having difficulty in a relationship.

All these trials will test our faith. How will we approach this test? With a joyful attitude like our friends in Christ? Or with a poor and “life is unfair!” attitude?

When I hear the word perseverance, I also think of another scripture verse that I love.

Romans 5:3-5 (New International Version Translation)

Not only so, but 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.

So we exult or rejoice in our sufferings! Those are our smiley joyful cheerful friends. And that has to be us too. Why? Because when we get through this trial, this challenge, this difficulty that we are facing, we produce perseverance, and character and from all of that comes what? Hope. Love that little 4 letter word, don’t you?

Fit in your Faith Today: What’s the latest trial you are facing and how is it testing your faith? What are you doing to persevere through? Does it help to know that after all is said and done, you will develop your faith even deeper? Put on a cheerful face as you tackle your latest challenge, knowing the finish line is someone who is, as James says, “complete and not lacking anything.”

Thoughts on Suffering from Charles Sidoti and Rabbi Akiva Feinstein

I came across this blog post from Charles Sidoti and just had to share.

Sidoti as well as Rabbi Akiva Feinstein share their thoughts on suffering and the questions we should be asking when tragic events occur in our lives.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • The span of a human life is simply too brief to achieve any meaningful understanding of the ways of the universe.  Just as we cannot judge a movie by arriving in the middle and leaving before the end, we cannot judge God’s master plan for us or for the world.  It is only with the passage of significant amounts of time that we could hope to gather even a measure of illumination.

 

  • It is perfectly natural to ask “Why?” but our response needs to evolve from there if we are to grow spiritually.

 

  • It occurred to me then that our own suffering, if we could learn to accept it in some measure into our lives, could serve a similar purpose for us.  Even as the sabal (the porter), cheerfully carried his heavy load knowing that he would be compensated, we can be buoyed by the knowledge that our sevel (our suffering) is not in vain.  We can live with confidence that our suffering has a higher purpose and represents an opportunity for growth, even though that purpose and opportunity may not be apparent to us.

 

  • Our personal response to suffering is our responsibility, and we do have a choice.

 

  • We will discover that, although in a different way from joy and happiness, the suffering that naturally comes our way has its part to play in our spiritual growth and in our becoming the loving person that God is calling us to be.

I would highly suggest reading the entire post (it’s not that long) to get the full effect. I was truly moved by the Rabbi’s explanation of the porter and the connection to our suffering. Think of the transformations that could occur in people everywhere if we view suffering not so much as a burden but as an opportunity for growth.

Fit in your Faith Today: Read today’s blog post from Charles Sidoti and reflect on the suffering that you have experienced and endured in your life. Ask yourself how you can see these “tragedies” as “opportunities” to grow in your faith.