I know my expression must have conveyed confusion as I stared back at her. I had just finished venting to a friend about some of the frustration I was feeling and her response had simply been, “So quit. Leave ministry and do something else.”
Quit? That was ridiculous. Sure, it had crossed my mind before. I had joked about it and maybe not so joked about it a few times, but actually quitting was never an option.
I’m sure you’re much smarter than I am. I’m sure that things don’t have to “simmer” quite as long for you, especially when God is showing you something. However, simmering is exactly what I’ve been doing on the idea of perseverance.
I feel like I am coming out of a discouraging season. Professionally and personally, there have just been a barrage of different discouragements. Even the trip I was supposed to take, to visit one of my favorite people, in an attempt to end some of the discouragement got canceled by some freak winter weather. My attempt at encouragement ended in discouragement!
All of my simmering finally came to a climax Sunday morning. I work with a lot of talented, smart people. Perfect by no means, they always give 100% to their work. I finally caught a few minutes of time on Sunday morning when I could just sit uninterrupted. I was observing some of the people I work with and thought, “It’s kind of crazy they want to come do this every week, even though there’s always someone unhappy or complaining.”
Suddenly my God revelation hit me in the face.
I committed James 1:2-3 to memory awhile back thinking it might be helpful for encouragement.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
You’ve probably heard this verse before. It may have been quoted to you an attempt to encourage you. Let me tell you right now- I don’t get joy out of trials. I don’t find joy when someone hurts me or I make an embarrassing mistake. I don’t find joy when God calls me to draw a line and start fighting insecurity head on. That’s probably why I haven’t really given that verse a lot of thought.
I have a very dear friend who is much wiser than I am. I was explaining to her how there’s just something in you that wants to keep moving forward. Even when people are critical and things are falling apart, something keeps telling you to move forward.
“Jesus,” she says simply.
I told you she was wiser than me.
Of course! The joy is not from trials, it is from your faith growing through trials! It’s through the perseverance that comes from that growing faith! That’s why a pastor can deliver message after message to blank staring faces. Why a someone can continue to counsel someone even when it seems like they aren’t listening. That’s why I can look at my friend blankly when she suggests I quit. That’s why so many people continue to persevere in their faith.
I make no apologies for being a list person. There are three things that I have committed to reminding myself about when I feel like giving up:
- Don’t lose sight of the source of your joyLooking for joy from a job, friends, or even someone you really love is a recipe for heartache. The source of your joy is Christ. Your life is hidden with Him. He has a specific purpose for you and He isn’t finished with you yet.
- Trust that you are developing perseveranceIf I can’t feel it, it’s harder for me to believe it. The truth is that God promised to continue the good work he started in us. We’re still in process. Whether you feel it or not, persevere and allow God’s truth to trump those feelings.
- Fall more in love with your FatherThis has been huge for me lately. When you feel like giving up, challenge yourself with growing your faith. Pick a book of the bible to study through. Commit to going to your small group consistently. Stretch yourself to grow in knowledge and intimacy with your heavenly father.
As I said, some of this was a recent revelation and reminder for me. I definitely don’t have it down to an art. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably had the unfortunately privilege of witnessing me wrestle with perseverance. There are still times where I don’t think I’m cut out for the work God’s called me to. Luckily, He’s reminding me that He’s more than capable of handling it.