God’s recently been highlighting a salt-and-vinegar word, and it’s been about as appealing as gargling away a raw throat. I’ve been scrunching my shoulders and plugging my nose, resignation in tow. Nevertheless, I’m hungry to grab hold of the healing.
It’s a nice Biblical word; something everyone wants. Something no one wants to experience.
Lately it’s been flashing neon in my soul.
My gut response to the Father’s training is to cringe in apprehension, cowering and ducking for cover. To grow in endurance necessitates… enduring. Can I take a miss?
But the Father in His infinite wisdom has begun to change my perspective. Because of His oh-so-patient instruction, endurance has become like a buoy for my soul, a preserver which has been necessary for the survival of my hope, my joy, and even my faith.
My first run-in with endurance came while delving into Romans 5:3-5.
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Endurance was crying out, not to be ignored. It was the path to regaining hope, something for which I had been petitioning God. So, almost against my will, I asked Him for a divine swap: my cry for changed circumstances giving way to a transformed heart of endurance. Endurance to stand in the midst of difficulty and challenge, even when my spiritual knees wobbled and threatened to give way.
Boot camp immediately commenced, with the Lord taking me on a tour of endurance, of steadfastness, of upomone (Grk.) through His precious Word.
“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of upomone, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” Hebrews 10:38-39
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces upomone. And let upomone have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:3-4
“As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained upomone. You have heard of the upomone of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5:10,11
The list of scriptures went on and on.
Endurance. Steadfastness. Remain steadfast in faith. Steadfastness will produce its perfect result. It produces character, and character produces hope, and faith is the assurance of those things hoped for. Steadfastness germinates hope, which transforms our faith.
Even still, there are innumerable days when the enduring, it feels too hard. You’ve asked too much, Lord. And I give up and give in and plop myself down for a decent cry-fest.
But in spite of the battle, I’ve determined to let go of false hope, the cheating hope found only in the expedient removal of trial and difficulty. The kind that makes the heart sick. The kind that nods assent to the lie of the accuser: after all this, God can’t possibly be good.
By grace, I’ve resolved instead to embrace endurance. And shockingly now, when the mirror of the Word reflects back my heart, I’ve been able to spot new growth forming. Tiny muscles of faith, of genuine, Spirit-breathed hope. The calisthenics are paying off. I’ve been aiming to run this race with the God-gift of steadfastness, and the newfound strength feels liberating.
Walking the beach trail with a much-beloved friend, I was given a beautiful motto for this endurance marathon. Her lovely daughter, my niece-in-love, coined the perfect phrase for my banner cry: And if not, He is still good.
If He doesn’t respond to this entreaty with a yes. If He allows the trial-fire to continue to burn. If He doesn’t change the fabric of my circumstances. If He, in His mercy, closes that door. If He allows time to elapse without any measure of movement in my mountains. If He doesn’t respond when I question.
If instead of removing the difficulty, He chooses to train me in endurance.
And If not, He is still good. He is always good.
So I shift my gaze and hoist my flag of upomone, taking up that healing cup of vinegar, the one my Lord freely drank so that I can cross this finish line of faith. And by His grace, I endure.
Special thanks to Rick Delanty who has granted permission to use his beautiful art in this post.