September 22, 2020
A Beginner's Guide to Perseverance
July 28, 2020 | Amanda Buxton
Potty training. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the process of teaching a small child to use the toilet.” I define it as “the process of jelly-bean bribery, lift-the-flap-book hoarding, and Sesame-Street-sticker coercion to convince a toddler with a toilet bowl allergy to use the restroom instead of his Thomas the Train underpants.” By either definition, it requires perseverance.
Just like the rest of life.
The human experience is a never-ending journey of perseverance, from the loss of a loved one to opening a jar of pickles. And God’s upfront about that. John 16:33 (NIV) says, “In this world, you will have trouble.” And James 1:12 (NIV) doesn’t say, “Blessed is the man who hides under a fuzzy blanket and watches Netflix for three months.” No, it says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial.”
So, how does one learn perseverance?
Prayer must always come first, especially in a time of trial. (Psalm 46:1 NIV) Prayer lets our Father know what’s going on with us and what we need. While He is a mind reader, He gave us free will, and we must use it. And the more we talk and turn to Him, the more we will be able to carry on.
2) Peace…with Discomfort.
Make peace with the discomfort or pain. A fixer by nature, this one is tough for me. While the trial or pain may not be okay, learning that the struggle, discomfort, and our eventual growth from it can be good. “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2–4) That means walking through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4 ESV) with Him instead of focusing on Star Trek-ing it out of there.
3) Gratitude and Joy.
Hope might seem the obvious choice here. However, when trials are extremely long and grueling, hope needs regular powerups of gratitude and joy to be sustained or created. While you may be in a phase of life where you are literally a country song (your wife is gone, your truck is busted, and your dog is dead) and have nothing to be happy about, I — and Christ — challenge you otherwise. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 NIV) Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that gratitude of any kind changes brain function and focus. Change your focus, change your experience.
4) Recognize It’s A PROCESS.
Perseverance “is a continued effort to achieve despite difficulties” (Merriam Webster). It’s a process, a journey, not an A to Z kind of thing. It’s a skill that can be grown and made stronger over time just like a bicep. But it must be flexed. One little move at a time. James 1:3 uses the word “testing.” As in ongoing, over and over again. With time and effort, your perseverance muscle can go from Gumby to Schwarzenegger.
While none of the above are easy, the effort will pay off exponentially. Strong persevering skills are important. Trials are an unavoidable part of life that can grow us and magnify God’s power. While I’m not excited to continue my struggle to potty train my son, I will persevere and dream on diaper-free days.