I sat quietly, taking time to look around at the familiar faces. Week after week we gathered; the quest to get here easier for some than others. It felt comfortable in this place. But my comfort was clouded by a heavy heart noting I didn’t see several who would normally be among the small crowd. It seems change seeps into every part of life, even the places you think will always stay the same.
It doesn’t matter if we like it or not.
I struggled to get to church on this Sunday morning. I was carrying a sack of worries the size of Alabama when I walked in the door. The last thing I wanted when I woke up was to get dressed and mingle with people, but I could hear my momma’s words ring in my ears, “Get up and get yourself in church. It’s the best way to start the week; it puts things in priority and we need to be around God’s people.”
Boy, those words have turned out to be true time and again in my life.
I stood as the song leader asked us to turn in our hymnal to one my personal favorites, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” The piano played the familiar chords and the organ swelled with each passing note, and then it was our turn to join in. “Great is thy faithfulness, oh God my father…” I just listened for a while as the words washed over me, I could hear young and old alike joining in the refrain.
The music felt like a balm to my frayed heart.
To my left an older lady sits faithfully every Sunday. She has seen many of life’s storms and yet each week she shuffles in clinging tightly to her walker and finds her favorite pew. Tears filled my eyes as I watched her raise a weathered hand when the chorus resounded, “Morning by morning new mercies I see…”
Behind me a few young ones gathered into the pew like baby chicks being herded into the coop. Their singing was fresh and strong, full of expectancy and life as the first chorus ended, “Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.” I had to smile at their jubilance.
I’ve entered a time in my life where the verses and choruses to most of the old hymns are more than just words to me; I have lived them and they resonate deep. They fill my thoughts with faces and places of years gone by, happy times and sad ones, basically, my story.
Many memories were playing in living color through my mind when the pastor rose to speak. He encouraged us to turn in our Bibles to James 1:2-4. When he began to read, I could no longer hold back the tears.
“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. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
It seemed lately wherever I turned there was turmoil—our country, loss of life, difficult relationships, my own fears and, as of late, an empty nest.
Church was exactly where I needed to be this day.
As I sat in my pew looking very attentive my mind began to wander to a conversation I’d had recently. The verses in James reminded me of it and I decided right then I needed to sort it all out in my head, because the Lord was trying to tell me something.
Well, I’ve decided to run another half marathon next year, I know, I have lost my mind! I was telling my friend about it and my reasoning for taking it on when she said, “You can do it, you’re a mom, you can endure about anything. But you want to be able to run your race and not just endure it.” It was like a lightbulb went off in my head; there really is a difference between perseverance and endurance. Why do I so often interchange the two terms?
I wanted to understand the difference for myself so I decided to do what any intelligent person might do, I googled them. Let me show you the definitions I found.
Perseverance: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
Endurance: the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.
Perseverance, after further study, seems to focus on singlemindedness. Staying focused while working hard toward a difficult goal. Endurance involves reaching one’s limit or almost reaching it. It doesn’t necessarily involve a goal as much as withstanding difficult circumstances that press in upon you.
One celebrates accomplishment while the other advocates survival.
So, in a nut shell, perseverance is staying focused while working through hardship to achieve your goal and endurance is withstanding hardships of real life with power that is motivated by survival.
Both terms involve difficulty and both have to do with strength; but one has purpose.
So, it turns out there really is a difference between the two and although I’ve used the words interchangeably in the past, I’m not sure I will again.
The pastor spent the next several minutes talking to us about being joyful in trials because they make us stronger, more mature. His message was so timely for me. I will never live a stress free, trial-less life, but I can determine to persevere through all of the difficulty with Christlikeness being the goal.
The trials will be more bearable if we see the purpose in them.
I’m nervous about running my half marathon next year. I’ve spent the last several months strength training and I hope it shows up when I actually start to run mileage. Working out in my older years sure looks and feels a lot different than when I was young! But, I have a single goal in mind, to run this race with strength so I can finish well. I’m not quite sure what that will look like, but I’m going to give it my best shot.
Anybody want to volunteer to train with me?
I’ve been humming “Great is Thy Faithfulness” all day. The words remind me as I persevere through the journey of life that God walks with me, I am not alone. And I hope one day when I’m sitting in church in my twilight years I’ll be the one raising a weathered hand proclaiming great is thy faithfulness, because He certainly is.