I can hardly believe we are on the shore of 2017 and it’s rolling in tonight. As I look back on this year, I realize I haven’t written one post in 2016. I’ve had a difficult time organizing my thoughts this year and haven’t put much in writing. I’ve been learning and growing, but have often struggled to put words with what is going on internally. If I had to come up with a term that encapsulates 2016, I’d characterize it as a year of endurance. My health hasn’t changed much at all this year and it isn’t due to a lack of effort. I’m coming up on the five year anniversary of my diminished functioning without much improvement, just coping strategies. BUT, I’m experiencing more peace and joy than I did when I was fully functioning. Although I haven’t been able to expand my capacity, I’ve experienced a depth in relationships with my family, friends and God that brings blessings from the struggle, pain and loss. I attribute that to God and His transformational work in my heart. I believe He is able to do His work in my life when I spend time with Him in His word. At the close of 2014 I decided that every 1/1 I was going to start at the beginning and read straight through the Bible each year and see what God teaches me from His word. I did read through the Bible cover to cover for the second time in 2016. It took me until December, but I read it and was amazed at what I learned the second time reading straight through. AND, I’m excited to start in Genesis 1:1 again tomorrow morning. Will you join me? Set aside some time each day to sit with God and His word and just anticipate what He will do in your heart, mind and life. I’ll leave this year with something I wrote in August about endurance:
Is life going as you planned? Are you filling your days with what you thought you would at this stage of life? If you aren’t in the midst of a current interruption, have you ever experienced a change you weren’t expecting? Interruptions to life come in all shapes and forms from slow transitions to sudden upsets with mild pain and suffering to deep long-suffering without light at the end of the tunnel. If I could sit across the table from you over a cup of coffee, I’m sure you’d have a story to tell of how life took a turn or came to what seemed like a halt. It may be a current circumstance or one in the past, but I’m certain it would have marked you in some deep, specific, permanent ways. There are always surface level impacts, but what marks us most is below the surface at the heart, soul and mind level. When we look within at how our circumstances craft and create our story through the lens of God’s story via the Bible, we start to see that how we respond and react matters. Faith in God is strengthened sometimes through healing of circumstances, but most often, and in my personal experience, through trusting God regardless of whether or not the healing or restoration comes. When I committed to following God, did I make that commitment only if things were going as I planned in my life? Is He my God only if He fixes the broken parts of my life the way I want? In the midst of pain, suffering, loss and diminished functioning when I just want to give up, give in, medicate or end it, how will I respond?
At some point in our personal suffering we consciously or unconsciously become committed to endurance, because the alternative is death, literally or figuratively death of the heart, soul or mind. The official definitions of endurance according to Merriam Webster are: the ability to do something difficult for a long time; the ability to deal with pain or suffering for a long time; the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; the quality of continuing for a long time; the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation with out giving way. Some synonyms for endurance: tolerance, sufferance; forbearance, patience, staying power, perseverance, persistence, tenacity, grit, resolution, determination.
Do you hear the repetition? How long does suffering last to produce endurance? A. Long. Time.
I will endure. I will get out of bed when I don’t think I can put both feet on the ground. I will remain physically active, constantly pushing myself to walk and stretch when my head, neck, back, hips, legs & knees are screaming to stop. I will engage and interact with those around me when I don’t think I have anything to offer or feel irrelevant, out of the game, unproductive, under-challenged, underutilized, insignificant or invisible. I will try to be faithful to God in the little things He’s given me to do, constantly being thankful. I will be patient with myself, my health and limitations as well as with those around me and encourage others to do the same, because Love is patient first, before it’s anything else ( I Cor. 13:4). I will always remember it’s the people in my life that matter most and try to make a positive, encouraging impact in their lives daily. I will still learn new things and pursue a healthy lifestyle. And on the days that I feel I can’t go on any longer, I will still hope and remember it will get better. I have strategies to bring some temporary relief. I will endure.
I was reminded about this endurance this morning from Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”
This gives me perspective and points me to Jesus’ example on how to endure. His focus was not on His suffering, but on the future joy that His sacrifice would bring to that which He loved most- people. What do I need to lay aside in order to keep my eyes on Jesus and the future hope He gives me right now? This is a deep, soul searching question that every one of us will answer differently. Is there anything He is whispering to you right now? The good news is that you don’t have to endure any of it alone, Jesus never leaves your side!
Life is hard. It is hard for every one of us, but it doesn’t have to make us hard. It can make us loving, joyful, thankful, encouraging, enduring, long-suffering, peaceful, kind, patient, humble, brave, bold, beautiful and faithful. You can endure your situation beautifully, my friend. I just know it!