If things are not the way you want, CHANGE ‘EM OR LEAVE! What is patient endurance?

There was a young woman who did not really fit in at her school. She wanted to feel beautiful, but no guy ever looked her way. She wanted to have friends, the kind of friends you could share anything with or just show up at their house anytime; but everyone else already had a place and she did not fit anywhere. Things were not the way she wanted them to be.

Seven years went by and it was graduation day. Her achievements were average and she did not receive any special recognition. After the ceremony, she left with her parents and went home. No pictures and no hugs from other students, the one thought on her mind was suicide. She thought about it before, but the thought was stronger this time. The world was not what she wanted it to be and if it weren’t for her caring and supportive parents, this young woman would have opted out.

Time went by and this young woman found a job, silently moving up in the company. Now surrounded by people with similar interests, she met a guy who respected her and cared for her as she was. She did not have to change for him. They married and had a family and suddenly life was worth something. There were still hardships, but things were looking up.

Living in an uncertain world, we never really know what is coming next in our lives. Whether we don’t like the way our school is, the way our homes are, the way our churches are or the way the world is, God calls us to have patient endurance as we follow His plan and trust in His goodness. My question, then, is: what does it mean for us to have patient endurance in a world that is so unpredictable?

For what credit is there if you sin and are punished, and you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God.

For you were called to this,

because Christ also suffered for you,

leaving you an example,

so that you should follow in His steps.

He did not commit sin,

and no deceit was found in His mouth;

when He was reviled,

He did not revile in return;

when He was suffering,

He did not threaten

but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.

He Himself bore our sins

in His body on the tree,

so that, having died to sins,

we might live for righteousness;

you have been healed by His wounds.

For you were like sheep going astray,

but you have now returned

to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.[1]

Honesty about suffering

One thing I notice about this world is that seemingly good people suffer for doing good. The girl in the story above never hurt anyone and was probably a very sweet girl. Yet she, as many others in this world, was a social outcast and suffered because she felt neglected and unimportant. What amazes me about God’s word is that it is very honest about suffering in this world. Peter literally says that if we suffer for doing good, meaning that people do indeed suffer for doing good, and if we endure it we have favor with God.

Here is what I learn: Suffering exists because of the sinfulness of humankind. Original sin introduced suffering into humanity’s world and we have to endure that suffering. Despite human sinfulness, God takes the time to care about our suffering and to care for us in that suffering. The great God of the universe yearns for us to be able to endure the sufferings that come our way on this earth.

Peter did not stop there. His claim was that Christians, who are challenged to be selfless, are actually called to suffer for the sake of the world, just as Christ did. The amazing truth here is that if we are truly imperishable (1 Peter 1:23), then we can endure all the sufferings of this life. We do not have to have our way or try to form our circumstances to our own liking. We are amazingly free to pursue God’s will rather than our own because God has made us imperishable!

Honesty about trust

This is what it means for us to continue to trust God with our lives. Whatever job you have. Imagine that you step into work one day and your boss, as he always does, begins to complain about certain things not getting done. To your surprise, he places all the blame on you even though you just walked in. This has happened before and you are fed up with not being appreciated, especially in such a stressful work environment. What do you do?

The reality is: if we allow people to push us to lash out, then they control us. If we skip school (or even one class) because we do not like it, run away because we do not like living in our houses or stop attending church because we do not necessarily like the way things are; then we are guilty of allowing our circumstances to control us. Similarly, if we become tense because someone else is doing what we believe to be wrong, then other people control us.

Considering this, I must strive not to allow other people or my circumstances to control me because I have entrusted myself to God, who has made me imperishable! For this reason, I literally have the freedom to just chill out. This is patient endurance: that I can go through all sufferings and be content in my current circumstances; always seeking to do what God wants me to do; instead of trying to make others into who I want them to be. So, we have the responsibility to trust God to do the work that He has promised and to focus on our own relationships with Him through all things.

Closing statements

If I see that things are not going my way, I remember that I am entrusted to God and that I can trust Him with my circumstances. If I do not like my school, I remember that God is in charge and He is a good judge. If I do not like my household, I remember that God has His hand over me. If I do not like my world, I remember that Christ did not like the way that the world was either and He died to save it. If I do not like my church, I strive first and foremost to be where God wants me to be (despite difficulties) because I can trust that God is good and is always drawing people to Himself.

Having patient endurance means that I resolve not to trust in people for my security, but instead in God. He has made us imperishable! In this there is freedom and I do not have to let the way things are ruin my day, ruin my opinion of others or ruin my life. This is a freedom that can only be found in Christ.

[1] 1 Peter 2:20-25 (HCSB)

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