“Every calamity is to be overcome by endurance.” Virgil
Most of us know someone in our lives that just seems to be able to stay with a challenge until it is overcome. The truth is we are amazed at the endurance of some in our lives. How do they do it? I knew a man a few years ago who faced personal and professional tragedy. About the same time his career was falling apart, his family was doing the same. When he was asked “How are you able to keep going in the face of all this?” he answered “What choice do I have? I have to hold on because others depend on me.” He endured such heartache and tragedy, but his tragedy was temporary and his endurance strengthened his faith and his ability to face future challenges.
Look at our lesson today in 1 Thessalonians 3:8-13:
BRETHREN, if you stand fast in the Lord, what thanksgiving can we render to God for you, for all the joy which we feel for your sake before our God, praying earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you; and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men, as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
I love the way St. Paul describes “endurance” here to the Thessalonians. He tells them that “if” they “stand fast” then there is no limit to his thankfulness for them BECAUSE their endurance will enable him to come and see them SO THAT he can help them grow in the faith. Their endurance will be to their benefit!
Too many times in our lives we want magic over faith. We want some “quick-fix” or “magic formula” that will make our lives OK. And over and over again we prove these are just fantasies that get us nowhere. The fad diet, the “fix everything” self-help book, or even the religious “short cut” all prove to be wishful thinking rather than the immediate remedy to our challenges and failings.
But the faith teaches us something else. The steady practice of the disciplines of the faith, the lives of endurance we read in the lives of the saints (by the way, there simply is no better roadmap to spiritual maturity than reading the lives of the saints), the gift of living simply and with vision and purpose, are the tried and true principles for endurance in the face of whatever life throws at us. There is just is no short cut past this valuable life-lesson of faithfulness and endurance. And the ability to have “stick-to-it-tivness,” to endure, is both a gift and a habit that can be developed. That means our ability to learn how to endure is something we hold within our power to control. We CAN learn to endure! But, here’s the catch we have to want to first!
And this desire to endure is the greatest legacy we can leave our children. If we want them to stay connected to the faith, then we have to model this endurance in practice, devotion, and love in front of them. No magic, just faithfulness. And a faithfulness that endures doesn’t mean rescue from every problem BUT a faithfulness THROUGH every problem.
Today, life is going to ask you to endure. But you won’t be asked to endure what might be. That fear is just another lie to distract you from living right now. And you won’t be asked to endure what has been. That trap is just another trick to keep you paralyzed. No, you have today’s challenges. Face those. Endure in the moment you’re in. Tomorrow’s challenges will be here when they arrive, and yesterday’s challenges are only to be learned from and repented of any stumbles. Save your energy for the present moment and be Orthodox on Purpose!
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