Recently my wife and I were on a five hour red eye flight. It was the end of a ten day vacation and we were pretty tired. My wife had the window seat and I was squeezed into the middle, next to a woman who commandeered the armrest and planted her nation’s flag there. Her elbow was my arm’s constant (mildly annoying) companion for most of those five night time hours. In the row right in front of us was a family with four kids, the oldest being about eight and the youngest still a baby. A crying and screaming baby, that is. The whole plane waited for her to tire out and fall asleep, but no matter how late it got she never did. Too uncomfortable to sleep, I soon realized there was absolutely nothing I could do and absolutely no place I could go. I was facing a very unpleasant five hours and that was all there was to it. I would simply have to endure it.
The dictionary definition of “endure” is: “To suffer something painful or difficult patiently.” We’ve all been there.
Being stuck somewhere unpleasant, like me on the plane
Having a root canal
Spending Christmas Day with a relative you’ve never been too crazy about
Having your home life disrupted because of a major remodeling project
And, of course, it can get much worse.
Living with chronic pain
Stuck in an unpleasant, dead-end job
Years spent fighting cancer and going through radiation and/or chemotherapy
Living with the loss of a loved one
Sure enough, we all get the challenge of having to endure something we’d rather not endure. And we get this challenge numerous times throughout life.
Endure, Endured, Endurance
Paul the apostle and first missionary probably lived into his early sixties—a pretty long life for the first century. And he had to endure quite a lot: shipwrecks, attacks from mobs, beatings, imprisonments, sleepless nights, hunger, heavy responsibilities, etc. He wrote many letters which became a large part of the New Testament, but the very last one he wrote—which we now know as 2 Timothy—contained a lot about enduring. It’s short, only four chapters, but it contains the words endure, endured or endurance six times. It’s a theme that he hammers away at in that little letter. Why?
Well, we don’t know for certain, but maybe it’s because at his age Paul had learned that oftentimes enduring a part of life is all you can do. Sometimes you can’t fix the bad stuff, sometimes you can’t make it go away, and sometimes you can’t pull yourself out of a particular place or situation. You’re there, it’s happening, and endurance or a useless angry tirade are your only two options. You just need to hang in there!
Endurance In The Bible
Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
The Bible is full of the idea of enduring the painful aspects of life. Moses had to endure 40 years in the wilderness because the Jews he was leading were stubborn and sinful. David was anointed king of Israel and then had to endure years on the run while the previous king refused to step down and kept trying to kill him. Jesus came from perfect heaven to fallen earth and endured years of sin and rebellion all around him, then had to endure hours of torture and an agonizing death on the cross. And as previously seen, the apostle Paul spent years of his adult life enduring one difficult thing after another.
That’s one of the things I like about the Bible—it’s very real. It doesn’t sugarcoat life. We all have bad stuff we have to endure. But the Bible also tells us we don’t have to go through it alone! Pain and difficulty are a little bit lighter when you can share the load with others who care. There are Christian brothers and sisters who are willing to come along side us for encouragement and support. I’ve experienced this many times and it’s wonderful, believe me!
And then there’s God himself. He has promised to never leave us on our own, to be with us to the very end, and to carry our burdens. And he’s as good as His word. I’ve experienced this many times too, and it’s the most wonderful thing in life! God is real, he cares, and he’s close by, waiting for us to cry out to him. That’s why the act of enduring and the act of receiving God’s encouragement through the Bible gives us hope.
So when you hit one of those rough spots in life—big or little—when all you can do is hang on and endure the difficulty or pain, remember that there are people in the church who are willing and able to help you. Contact us here at First Evangelical Free Church of Maplewood and we’ll be glad to show you!
But best of all, God—the creator of everything—wants to be at your side through it all. He cares! That’s the good news that gives us hope and makes the bad news endurable!
About the author
Mike Anderson majored in Bible at the University of Northwestern and has been a student of the Bible his whole adult life. He is newly retired and still learning the ropes. At First Evangelical Free Church he teaches 5th grade Sunday school and co-leads a small group. He enjoys biking, reading, writing, and hiking. Mike and his wife Debbie make their home in Lake Elmo and enjoy having all of their kids and grandkids in the Twin Cities area.