Perseverance

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance- Romans 5:3

Perseverance is a tricky word. When we think about it we might picture an athlete pushing through pain to accomplish his goals. The runner pushing themselves toward the finish line. The single mom pushing through her exhaustion to care for her child after a full day at work. Persevere. Keep on course. Push through the pain, the hurt, the disappointment.

The world we live in now is a place of perseverance. What we thought would last only for a little while, is now dragging on. Our plans have been changed so many times to accommodate new rules, new restrictions, new guidelines, new quarantines, it almost seems pointless to make any plans.

We have also seen the worst in people, at times, and not the best. Those who cannot deal with this world of change and of suffering. Some are pushed too far and seek to take it out on others. Hurtful words. Violent exchanges. Demands for things to get better.

Others bury their heads and pretend it is the new normal, or that the reactions to the pandemic are overblown and exaggerated. They hide their frustration when they need to, out of the fear they might offend. The frustration builds until they too, begin to find fault with their fellow human being and lash out on social media upon people they barely know.

We might wonder, and rightly so, just what has happened to the world in which we live. It is not the way it should be and its not about a world wide pandemic. We are all being pushed and squeezed, aroused by the pressures to survive. We all have this deep need for freedom. To live free. To live in Grace and Mercy. Yet we find ourselves struggling to persevere. We are so accustomed to fast food, fast internet, fast dating, fast connections to a global community that when we must wait we cannot bear it.

If you are familiar with the Bible, you will notice that I did not complete the verse above from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans. If you read on in the rest of the verse, you’ll find Paul’s adds that perseverance produces character. Character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint.

I did it on purpose because I think we all want to quickly move past the perseverance part, past the character and move onto hope. We want hope. We need hope. Hope that everything will get better. Hope for this world. Hope in Christ. Hope in Heaven. Even before the verse mentions perseverance, Paul tells us to rejoice in suffering. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like suffering. I do not find anything to rejoice about when I am suffering. Yet this is what Paul begins with. Is there something that Paul knows that we do not? If we study his life we will find that yes, he does know suffering. He nearly died several times after being stoned and beaten. He was shipwrecked and nearly drowned. He was bitten by a venomous snake. He lived with the guilt that he had personally seen and approved of the arrest and deaths of Christians,including women and children, before he himself became one. He had been put on trial and put in jail. He knew suffering. He knew perseverance. He developed character.He found hope. He, like many of the Roman Christians he was writing to, were persecuted, arrested and beheaded because of their faith. But he did not think of himself as a type of superhero or martyr, he knew his weaknesses. He struggled with them, he prayed for his thorn in his flesh to be removed. God said no. Instead Paul relied on God’s strength. not his own to persevere. He wrote and he encouraged others to do the same. God is our strength.

What we are going through now will produce character, not in a flash, but overtime, as we learn to trust in God and rely upon His strength and not our own.

Waiting For The Morning

“Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5)

Do you know many joyful people? Those people who always seem to have a smile on their face, no matter the circumstances? I do. And I admit sometimes I’m jealous that they can seem to be so happy all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy, but I do not always appear that way. I’m a thinker, who likes to think about everything and if you see me out and about, I probably have a serious look on my face. It’s just that I’m thinking and reflecting on something. If you have seen me lately, you probably would have noticed a little bit of a frazzled look added to my my serious look due to my recent philosophy classes, which force me to think too much. But I am happy, just maybe not outwardly joyful.

This topic came up recently when my husband woke me up in the early morning hours to ask me what “sorrow lasts for the night , but joy comes in the morning” meant. It was a good question. Although I was tired, I managed to grab my phone and do a Bible verse search to find the passage the phrase had come from. Memorizing scripture is an area that I admit I do not have skill in, so I am so thankful for Bible search apps. It wasn’t easy to find because some versions trade the words sorrow for weeping. We decided to table the conversation until we were both more awake, but it started me thinking. Why do I not feel joyful all the time? Is there something wrong with me?

Maybe you too, have asked yourself this question before too. Are Christians always supposed to be joyful? Isn’t it a bit too unrealistic? Well, maybe what the problem is found in our definition of joy. If we treat joy as a feeling, then yes, we will not always feel “joy”. We might feel joy when our favorite sports team wins, but then become sad and depressed when in the next game the team loses. This kind of joy is changing with our circumstances. No one would expect us to feel joy if our team lost, or we receive news of the death of a loved one, or of a bad health diagnosis. So, what is this passage trying to say?

This particular phrase is found in Psalm 30 and its writer is David. If you’re familiar with the Psalms, David seems to write whatever pops into his thoughts. There are times when he cries out to God and wonders where God is in dark times. He will then remind himself of previous occasions when God came through in these darkest hours and he rejoices with praises to God. Psalm 30 is no different. Bible commentator Matthew Henry finds evidence in this Psalm of David’ sadness at God’s turning away from him because of his (David’s) sin. Henry believes David had security in himself and this brought him to sin and the feeling of sadness or sorrow that was replaced with joy once David repented.

While, I am not an expert at the meaning of this Psalm, I’ll offer what I can as I let God work on me through this passage. This is some of what I have gleaned through reading Psalm 30: 1)There will be times when we do have dark times. there is no getting around them. This is life, and the fallen state in which we live in the world. We as Christians, cannot escape the bad times in life, the dark hours, just because we are Christians- they will come.2) I also believe there are people who are just naturally happy go lucky people. It’s just their nature whether they are Christians or not. 3) We are all created uniquely by God and shouldn’t compare ourselves with others- even other Christians. We all have different temperaments. I might be more of a serious minded thinker, but that doesn’t mean I’m not joyful on the inside. 4) Joy is more than a feeling; it is a quiet confidence and trust in God. We rejoice because we know God will strengthen us through anything. 5) We can trust God and  He will get through to the morning- the times when we can rejoice again. 6) We should ask ourselves if we have let confidence in ourselves lead us into sin- is it God who has turned away, or have we turned away? If so do we need to repent a little? 7) The passage seems to be meaning that we shouldn’t focus on the dark times as a permanent place regardless of the cause- it is temporary. 8) After we go through these dark, joyless times, there will be joy. Times of praising and remembering all that God has done.9) Sometimes, we can be mistaken as to when we are in the dark places when actually we are in a time when we should be rejoicing. We can assume we having bad, difficult circumstances, but maybe things aren’t as bad as we think. We can focus on the negative or choose to think about the good, which is what I suspect the” happy” people  I know do regularly.

My husband’s question was a good one, and as I said, I probably do not have the perfect answer to the meaning of the passage, but I think it is one to reflect upon and do some research on. If you are finding yourself in a place where you are having are difficult time being joyful, reading the Psalms is a great place to start. Just be assured morning will come. Sometimes we just need to wait. -God Bless- Nancy

 

 

 

Prayer

“Rejoice always, pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, NIV)

A short, simple verse but one packed with so much more. Do you struggle to rejoice always? Me too. Some days I’m only able to tolerate life, far from rejoicing about it. Life is a struggle at times. Situations stress us out. People stress us out. A new school year stresses us out. As a parent I have felt the fear and sadness from dropping my children off at school. Would this be a good year for them? Would they make new friends? Did I pack a lunch they will like? Did I remember to sign all the papers I was supposed to for the registration? Am I going to miss them while they’re at school? What am I going to do while they’re at school? My routine is all messed up now.

Well, you might think this is something I dealt with when my children were in elementary school and that it’s long past me now. But, no, this is actually my thoughts this morning. Except for the lunch part. I’m sure they packed their own today. My daughter is the teacher now, but I still get excited for her first day of school with her new kindergarten class. And I still stress over whether my college age son has everything he needs as he starts his junior year. And yes, I miss them a lot. And my schedule has to change as I figure out what to do now that they have returned back to college and to their apartments after a summer with them here. Being a parent means you will always worry and stress about your children, no matter the age. It comes with the job.

So, this morning I want to remind all the parents out there to remember prayer. Pray for your students and their friends, their teachers, their schools. And pray for yourself as well. Parents need prayer too. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for prayer for yourself. My Husband knows how the new year of school can be stressful for me and he knows to pray for me. If someone does ask you for prayer, please do it. Don’t neglect the request or put it off for a “to do” later, just stop and pray at that moment. In fact, we should always be in a prayer moment. That is what it means to pray continually. All through the day.  -God Bless- Nancy