James 1:12 NASB
Endurance is a puzzling thing.
In my life it seems like most of the time God gives endurance when it’s needed, but at other times I’ve felt like I cannot go on. The best answer I’ve come to is that sometimes we don’t feel like we can bear to go on, but God knows we can.
I’ve watched runners who have the ability to run beyond what they thought possible. I’ve seen weight lifters who struggled, but managed to build up endurance that gave them the ability to lift much more.
I’ve never been the athletic sort, though. I’m about as tall as a 4th grader and by the time I was in junior high school, all of my classmates had passed me up. I struggled to keep up in gym class in high school. In college I was a little afraid the physical education requirement would deter me from graduating (the University of Missouri, Columbia required one P.E. Class). I was able to find a walk/run class that also had physiology tests. I did fine on the tests so I was able to muster a B out of the course.
In my life, endurance became an academic endeavor.
It turned out that was a good thing because by the time I got to Seminary, I found that academic endurance was a “must”. Prior to starting Seminary I was warned there would be a lot of reading and writing. I thought, “hey, I love to read and write so it should be okay”. But, my time was limited because I was working full time while I was in Seminary. During the first few weeks I found out that reading equivalent of 3 books a week was part of the norm. There were usually papers to write, and every class had a mid-term and a final exam. I knew I could make time for that. What I hadn’t counted on was the projects. It took time for me to get acclimated to the workload, but I was able to get the work done and still get some sleep before heading off to work the next day. When I started my degree was a two year degree with a Masters in Church Leadership. At the two year point I knew I wanted more so I changed my degree to a Master of Divinity degree with emphasis in Leadership.
The workload then became a real test of endurance. The M. Div. requirement is 144 graduate hours and it’s a five year program. I was 59 years old when I graduated. At one point during the journey, I was tempted to quit, or to change my degree back to what it originally had been, but after a lot of praying I pressed on.
I believe that God, and God alone sustained me. God carried me.
James 1:12, tells us, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him..”
I know there are all kinds of trials and temptations. We often relate temptation to “sin”, but the Greek word for trial is peirasmon and in this verse it refers to a trial that calls for perseverance. Finishing what I was sure God had called me TO became an act of surrender to God and relying on God for endurance. The biggest struggle I faced was that I didn’t know why God pressed in on me and wanted me to go to Seminary. I only knew that I had to do it. When life got hard and I felt like it was too much for me to handle, I had to dig deep within myself to decide that by faith (blind faith), I would press on in obedience to God.
It was peirasmon, a test of my obedience.
During that time I prayed a lot asking God to show me why He wanted me to go to Seminary. I wish I could say I had a dream and I received an answer. I didn’t have a dream. I didn’t get an answer. I still don’t know why God wanted me to go to Seminary.
I noticed after I finished Seminary that all of the theologians I had been drawn to were more like Spiritual Directors. I studied under an excellent Spiritual Director for years and I love the perspective of the practice. When working with an individual we don’t give answers. We ask questions. Spiritual Directors lead people to think, pray, and seek answers from God.
Several years after graduating I felt like I would explode if I didn’t write, so I started writing books, then I started blogging. It was like breathing. I pray and I write. I found out I needed illustrations so I turned my silly doodles into blog illustrations.
Today, I’m really glad that I went to Seminary. I’m glad God called me. I’m at peace with what I’m doing.
I’m really grateful that when the journey became hard and I was tempted to quit, God held onto me and gently pushed me through the rough spots.
The peirasmon, which can also be called an experiment, turned out to be a huge blessing even though it was outside my comfort zone.
I feel like I have to ask today, what is your trial? What is God asking you to do that is outside your comfort zone?
So, today’s Spiritual Practice is: What is God asking of you?
Listen and wait for God to press in on you. Does God have more for you? Is there someone God wants you to visit or help? Do you have a burning desire to try something new? Maybe, just maybe God has a peirasmon for you.
In God, Deborah