Perseverance: the Muscle That Needs a Daily Workout

by Annette Cook | Director of Senior Adult Ministries | Christ Church Episcopal | Greenville, SC

The Free Dictionary defines perseverance as the quality that allows someone to continue trying to do something even though it is difficult. Patience is the quality of toleration of a situation or condition. Paul says in Romans 12:12 to “rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.”

He tells us to run the good race, to keep going. What does this mean as we live the latter years of our lives? I think it means several important things for us. It means we aren’t to retire from active Christian life in our churches and in the world.

We may be weary or ill but we are to continue learning, growing in faith, helping others, and sharing our wisdom and faith. There is still meaningful work for us to do and it will help us endure patiently what we cannot change.

Aging has some very unpleasant aspects but our choice to persevere, to patiently endure until the end is ours to make. Perseverance has an aura of martyrdom and hard work and that is true in part but it also builds spiritual muscles and character and draws us closer to God which is a joyous thing.

Persevering in God’s work means we are to live joyfully knowing that the hope we have in the faithful love of God for us is sustaining us and we need to share that joy for our own sakes and for others. One lady I know said she chose to be mean! This attitude was very hard on everyone and certainly brought her no happiness. She wasn’t able to persevere in following the commandment to love her neighbor as herself even in the midst of her illnesses and pains.

We are called to endure and interestingly enough when we serve others out own worries and pains recede and we are happier and healthier.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Cor. 13:4-7.

We don’t get to retire from acting with love no matter what our circumstances are. We are called to endure and interestingly enough when we serve others our own worries and pains recede and we are happier and healthier.

In our daily lives I think it means to choose cheerfulness, choose smiles, choose encouragement, choose patience, choose giving the benefit of the doubt, choose to uplift someone who’s being cranky instead of engaging in argument.

These actions and attitudes are hard work and it is so easy for us to snap back, to criticize, to frown, to complain, that we fall into the habit of looking at the world as those with no trust or faith look at it: as a place of fear and hurt instead of a playground and field where we can show others God’s love through our actions and attitudes. God has given us permission to be stubborn as mules when we are about his work!