Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
The first night in rehab, my prescription didn’t follow me from the hospital. Everything hurt, even parts that were uninjured. They could only offer me a Tylenol, likely, just like the one in your cabinet. If I’m being honest, I can’t count how many times I asked the Lord for strength to move. For patience through this, or for understanding. 36 hours later, I stopped taking the oxy I was prescribed. I needed to feel the pain, so I knew what I could push through and what I should stop on.
I should have asked for endurance.
I remember in rehab looking more intently at Hebrews 12, and specifically at the word chasten. Was I being disciplined? Was this all some sort of divine spanking? I begged the Lord to show me my sin. Months later I shared this with a brother, saying, “I asked the Lord if there was any unconfessed sin in my life.” He, being an astute man of God, picked up on the if, and said, “Brother, there’s always unconfessed sin in your life.”
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (James 1:2)
The Greek word for joy means utter gladness or exceeding delight. I am supposed to be utterly glad about getting hit by a car God? I admit I was reluctant, but the refining was well under way.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials. (1 Peter 1:6)
I had long thought that the expression, “in this you greatly rejoice,” referred to the previous verses about the abundant mercy of God, the living hope we have through the resurrection, and our inheritance. That’s a lot to be rejoicing in! However, my brother-in-law gave me a book whose author suggested the rejoicing was really in the various trials. That took some musing though it certainly fit with the message of James, except rejoice is repeatable joy, or repeatable utter gladness. I can find joy in merely remembering what the Lord has gotten me through.
Irony: we bought our house 2 years ago from the family of a woman who was wheelchair bound. Last spring, I removed the Americans with Disabilities Act compliant ramp, because it was big and hard to mow around. Not even 6 months later, I needed that ramp. Two brothers from the meeting built a ramp with the remnants. It was steep but effective.
Physical therapy taught me a lot about my new normal. Years of bicycle racing and long-distance riding taught me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. The Lord taught me even more about endurance than either combined.
While waiting to return to work, or at least be cleared to work from home, I prayed to know the presence of God in all of this. I had read a few testimonies of brothers who had likewise prayed to know the presence of God. One, prayed for over two years, even citing the duration of his patient waiting, until one day he was overcome with both his guilt and the joy of grace. Another, had been fervently praying for a number of things and recalled one day just knowing the presence of God in the room.
I wanted this.
Even more than getting on a bike again, or even walking, I wanted to know God’s presence. I wanted to know His presence even if it broke me. One day, it was clear to me as I was enjoying the Word. I knew the Lord was guiding my thoughts, my reading and my meditations. Tears of joy streaming down my cheeks as I knew intimacy with the Lord like I had not before, or at least more pronounced than before.
The Lord was using this circumstance to reach the lost, to teach me endurance and my wife to know peace that passes understanding. My children were learning about the character of God. Even if they didn’t like it, mommy and daddy did. The almighty God was teaching saints to pray, and the lost that the Christian can find joy in what they would consider bad circumstances. He was in many individual lives bringing in revival.
From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. (Galatians 6:17)
I used to think Paul was a little bit sacrilegious with that statement. I know he endured much, but it seemed a tad over the top. I fully can appreciate the sentiment though. His boast was in the cross of Christ. Likewise, so should my boasting be.
So many believers are struggling with circumstances, and the depression that results. The word of God on the other hand shows us that we are to rejoice in difficult circumstances. We can relive in our minds or with others the blessing of the Lord through difficulties and both find tremendous strength, endurance and utter gladness.