On the Other Side of Pain
What does it mean to endure?
This is the type of question that usually prompts a montage and cliches about "hard-work and determination." It would probably show some intense workouts or sports footage that makes you want to get up and workout, face your fears, and conquer the world.
If you're like me, much of last year felt like a matter of endurance, yet it didn't feel anything like the sports montage for me. It actually felt like a very dry and hazy wilderness. The year itself seemed to go by in a blur, but there were many times where it just felt like I was lost in no man's land. I knew I had taken a wrong turn somewhere, but was in no rush to get back. Things just felt like they were drying up slowly but surely. The devotionals were drying up, the blog entries, the music, the prayer calls, the livestreams. It all just seemed to be withering away and I couldn't find the motivation. I was burnt out and distracted. I had detoured and went on vacation, but there was no peace. I knew that I had to get back on track eventually, but it really felt like I was just hanging on by a thread.
So, the question of what it means to endure had been on my mind for months. I remember when I first got saved and the Holy Spirit would tell me to pray for strength, endurance, and fortitude. I used to pray this often (and I sometimes still do), but I don't know if I really took the time to dig into what it really means. When you look up the definition of endure, it says "[to] suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently," and the second definition is "[to] remain in existence: last'. The latin breakdown of the word, in durus or indurare, literally translates as "in hard". It's where we get words like durable or duration.
Immediately, the first thing that stands out is the fact that endurance is suffering. It means that there are going to be times where life gets hard. There's no avoiding it. Even Jesus said in John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
The next thing that stands out is that one suffers patiently. It begs the question: Patiently for what exactly? What's implied is that if someone is enduring something, then there has to be something waiting on the other side of that pain. That athlete in the endurance commercial who is training like a maniac is eyeing a championship. The graduate student who is drinking coffee and staying up all night to study is eyeing a PhD. These people have faith that if they endure whatever they're going through, then it will be worth it. So what is the motivation for the believer?
Well, the scriptures are loaded with passages about endurance, but one constant I've noticed is that so many of them come with promises:
2 Timothy 2:12 (NKJV) If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.
2 Timothy 2:3-4 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
Matthew 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
When we find it hard to endure, it's usually because we have lost faith or lost sight of the promise. The promise is the fuel that we need to keep going. The promise is what lets us know that whatever we are going through will be worth it in the long run. Galatians 6:9 states it best: And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
One of the main reasons that we can get side tracked is because we focus on what's going on around us instead of focusing on the promise. Sure, there have been a lot of unforeseen circumstances these last couple of years, but God's word has not changed and neither have His promises. Let 2022 be a year of focusing on the promise. You could almost say that the promise is the finish line. It's the prospect of reaching something or obtaining something that you have never seen before. It's the reward of seeing a sight that is beautiful enough to remind you that it was all worth it.
In closing, I'm reminded of an old hymn that I used to hear in church. I'm on the battlefield for my Lord, for my Lord, Yes I'm on the battlefield for my Lord. And I promised Him that I, I would serve him till I die. Yes, I'm on the battlefield for my Lord"
Hebrews 12:1-2 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.