When I moved away for college, I decided I wanted to learn how to run. I never felt capable of running up until that point, but with all of the changes my life had seen in a short month I figured one more addition couldn’t hurt. Much to my surprise, I learned to love running. For me, running has become a time of release, an instance in my day in which all other things become small because the task is bigger and demands all focus. However, most importantly, running has taught me a great deal about endurance. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines endurance as the ability to withstand hardship or adversity or the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity. Something I have come to learn is that running doesn’t begin when you jog out of your front door, running begins when every thought in your mind is pounding “I can’t do this anymore”, yet you choose to keep going. This is running, and this is endurance. I have come to believe that the same is true with faith. Perhaps walking with God doesn’t begin until we push past the same concern: “I can’t do this anymore.” These moments when we feel like we can’t take another step are the moments when faith is truly tested. Do we trust God enough to keep going despite the fear, pain, or sorrow? Will we endure? These are the great questions we must wrestle with, especially today.
If I were to pick one word to describe these past few months of living amidst a global pandemic, I would choose endurance. Now more than ever, we have to look past the fear, pain, and sorrow surrounding us and choose to persevere. Speaking as someone who has struggled greatly in the realm of faithful endurance in this specific season, I hope to share what God has been graciously revealing to me over the course of this pandemic.
The Greek word for endurance is truly fascinating and in itself I believe reveals necessary truth. The word is ὑπομένω. This word combines both a preposition and a verb. The first part of the word, ὑπο, means under, by, or in. The second part of the word, μένω, means to remain or abide. Thus, endurance in the Greek seems to be about remaining by, under, or in something. This is the key. If we want to have endurance in our faith, we must remain in God; we must hold fast to His hand and look up to Him for guidance. Today, we are in a prolonged period of stress, and as much as we may try to avoid it or minimize it, stress is at the core of both our world and heart operations. The only way we can truly endure this hardship is by remaining in God, for He is our refuge and our stronghold. There is nothing else that can give us true endurance through a time such as this or the trying times to come.
However, in order to practice endurance in this way we first must understand what it truly looks like to remain in Him? Remaining under God means living under His guidance and His direction. It’s not just a matter of bringing yourself close to Him, it’s a matter of submitting and trusting your life to His direction. Often, trusting is the most difficult choice to make when the circumstances don’t seem to be in our favor. Yet, this is the tension by which the God of peace has boldly invited us to step faithfully into; we must choose to trust the goodness of His ways and keep walking with Him despite our lack of foresight. Much like running, this is where our faithful endurance truly begins.
“Consider it great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
James’ claim here seems ever challenging in the light of the world today. Joy doesn’t seem to be the first word that comes to mind, death and quarantine seem to have priority. Yet, I don’t believe James is writing this to undermine the pain and suffering of the world, or of the coronavirus. Rather, I think he is boldly calling those of faith to step up and shift their focus to be completely on God. There is reason to rejoice in this time of trial because the more we endure (ὑπομένω) the closer to the Father we will be. Afterall, we are called to pursue His heart and imitate Christ, so despite the immense difficulty of trials, we know that when we remain in Him we can find the abundant life He has for us. This is exactly what James is talking about in verse 4; endurance makes us “complete” because, when we remain in God, through the grace of Christ Jesus we lack nothing. Abundant life is waiting on the other side of “I can’t do this anymore”, we must keep running no matter the bombarding voices.
“And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Paul also speaks of endurance in his letter to the Romans and reveals crucial insight to enduring: endurance produces hope. When we remain by God, our character is strengthened and true hope is found. In a time where hope seems like a distant thought, this word gives me a great sense of comfort. Like James, Paul recognizes the pain that afflictions bring, but he too challenges believers to push on in faith because this is where hope is found. We can have hope because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross; friends, this is the source of the fountain of hope we have been invited to drink from. So, I ask myself and I ask you: what are you waiting for? Why do you walk so far from God when abiding in Him has never let you down before?
It is my prayer that this season may teach us how to run with God. I pray that we won’t grow weary though our muscles ache with fatigue, but that we may endure and keep running with God tethered to our side. For this is where abundant life and hope are found. There is no television show or hike or food that can sustain us, only God can. May we learn to live in a posture of endurance and find great joy that God is still on the move is us and in this world. Do not lose hope, but remain in Him.