And so, dear reader, the year of endurance is almost over. Rejoice! Celebrate! Kill the fatted calf and pour the drinks! Next year I’m gonna be the Queen of quitting.
I’d love to have a nice shiny pearl of wisdom to impart to you, some eloquent revelation about endurance and what it means. But all I have is three words – stay with it.
Endurance is about staying with it when you’re tired, when you’ve run out of options, when you just want to give up and all you have left is an itsy bitsy teenie weenie tiny glimmer of mustard seed sized hope.
Stay with it – stay with doing hard and holy things, stay with believing God for impossible things, stay with brazen hope, just stay with God through it all in this season you are in." Ann Voskamp
2017 has not been my favourite year (17 is a prime number so we were already off to a bad start - prime numbers are selfish and I don’t like them). But if nothing else, this absolute non-ironic 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife kinda year has taught me that sometimes all you can do is take a deep breath, take your shoes off (it’s grounding) and choose to stay with God.
Endurance is about sticking with faith/hope/love through the minutes/hours/days/weeks/months that started with such promise but seemed to crash and burn despite your very best laid plans of prayers and intentions. Endurance is about sticking with it through the doubt, the fears and tears. Endurance is making decisions based on faith and not fear. Endurance is about staying with the hard and holy things. [Disclaimer: Endurance is not about staying with the abusive, unboundaried and destructive things. Run like you’re about to miss the last train home from those.]
Stay with brazen/bold/barefaced/shameless/unabashed/audacious/unashamed hope – I JUST LOVE THIS.
The secret to endurance? It’s there, written to a people who were being beaten up, jailed and killed for choosing to follow Jesus. We endure by keeping our eyes on Jesus. The number of times I have had to relearn this lesson over the past 12 months is quite frankly embarrassing.
When we take our eyes from Jesus we can find ourselves looking at the situation and start to sink, just like Peter walking to Jesus on water. The weight of what we carry can seem too big. We forget that Jesus invites all those wearied and burdened to come to him for rest.
I used to think endurance was about continuing to move forwards through the difficult things. But actually, maybe it’s sometimes just about staying on the course - sticking with faith and hope and love when absolutely everything tells you to give up.
Endurance is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego about to be burnt to death – “We know our God is able to save us, but even if He doesn’t, we will not worship your idols.” They had brazen unashamed wild hope, and yet acknowledged that God might not intervene. They based their decisions on faith and not fear. They had faith enough to keep believing, faith enough to stay in the race and faith enough to not let their situation dictate their actions “even if…”
Endurance is faith enough to stay with it. Faith enough to pray through the mountains in our way and faith enough to not be offended by prayers unanswered. Faith enough to say this:
I know You're able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand. But even if You don't, my hope is You alone." Mercyme
My prayer for you in 2018 is that you stay with the hard and holy things with brazen/bold/barefaced/shameless/unabashed/audacious/unashamed hope.
Stay with it babe. In hope and anticipation of the absolute JOY to come in 2018.
Much love x x
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. Hebrews 12v 1-
Last weekend/year I ventured out of the safe haven of the Cronx to fields of green and barley - or something like that.
What started out a nice plan to stroll through the glorious English countryside with a quick pitstop at a cake shop (obviously), turned into an epic and perilous trek through hills, mountains and ravines of mud, mud and more mud. It was just like going on a bear hunt - we couldn't go over it, we couldn't go under it, so o flip flopping no we had to go through it.
I spent the better part of two hours terrified I was about to slip, fall and then trudge back to the car covered head to toe in mud, my shame at falling witnessed and judged by every other walker, sheep and cow that we saw. I'm all for natural facemasks but face full of sheep crap mud? Yeah, I'll give that a miss thanks.
I soon realised I was letting the fear of what might happen rob me of the joy of enjoying green fields, blue skies and horizons - yes, real life horizons with trees. And then, as you do when you have a realisation, the soundtrack kicks in. This one was The Fear by Ben Howard -
Oh, I've been worryin' that my time is a little unclear
I've been worryin' that I'm losing the ones I hold dear
I've been worryin' that we all live our lives in the confines of fear
Then it hit me like a wrecking ball of cold wet mud - Have I really? Have I really been living my life in the confines of fear?
I would like to say at this point I threw caution to the wind, threw off the shackles of fear, embraced potential failure and stomped through the mud like a child rejoicing in puddles.
Ha! No. I hate being cold, wet and muddy - you can thank three years of PE lessons playing rugby on top of a hill in winter for that. I actually made it back to the safety of the car crying for my mother, holding on to all fences and trees that might keep me upright, and when no other option seemed possible simply closing my eyes, saying a quick prayer and leaping across the puddle/river/reservoir of mud. Not too different from surviving PE actually.
But fear doesn’t just influence how we live, it also influences how we see God. I’ve had Let You Go by United Pursuit playing round and round in my head for the past few days. Particularly this bit:
Help me let You go, help me give up control of the God I have made you when my fear has contained you
I’ve been listening to it on repeat repeat repeat and waking up singing it. (The week before it was The Secret Place by Phil Wickham).
Ever been there? Making decisions out of fear and not faith? Believing lies, letting fear cloud your vision of God and distort it to something seemingly more manageable?
Me too – you’re in good company.
Fortunately for us, by his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope (Ephesians 3v20). So while some may trust in horses and chariots (Psalm 20v7), weapons and armies, technology, jobs, people – all of which can be gone in an instant – we can trust in a God who can do more than we can even dream.
I don’t know about you, but I would much rather a life where I had to be brave and embrace potential failure and discomfort to see the immeasurably more of God, than a comfortable life confined by fear.
Here’s to the immeasurably more!