Shingles. All I knew about the notorious infection spawned from chicken pox was that it triggered pain. Lots of pain. Now I was experiencing it firsthand. Initially the pain came as intermittent spurts, but as the days…and weeks…continued, those little spurts started to feel like mini electrical shots that pulsated my elbow, upper arm and chest. The pain medication offered temporary relief, but the aching intruder kept returning. It was wearing me down. By the fourth week self-pity made a valiant attempt to attach itself to my misery.
But rather than giving in to the woe-is-me syndrome, I began focusing on things I could be grateful for. Thank you Lord that I was able to sleep last night. Thank you for helping me be alert for my classes. Thank you that even though I’m hurting right now, you are still God and are deserving of my praise….
Gratitude stimulates perseverance.
Scripture tells us that the perseverance developed when we endure suffering generates more than momentary strength. It matures us and completes us (James 1:4). Romans 5:4 says perseverance that comes from suffering produces the kind of character that leads to unflinching hope (something I sure wouldn’t mind having more of). So although we cannot escape pain in a fallen world, we can be assured that when we persevere God makes our suffering count.
CS Lewis writes in The Screwtape Letters that it is extremely hard for humans to persevere. He describes how Satan seizes on this and uses time as his ally to wear us down by attrition. The source of our suffering makes no difference. Chronic physical pain—from severe to merely annoying; chronic temptation—when our ongoing battles make us war-weary; chronic disappointment—when our prayers seems to go unanswered; such ongoing challenges make us vulnerable. Thoughts of throwing in the towel intensify. We lose sight of the bigger picture that God wants to use our afflictions to make us more like the man or woman he has designed us to be.
So whatever challenge you may be facing right now—don’t give up. Ask God to help you press on. Let your pain work for you, not against you. Let perseverance “finish its work” according to God’s timetable, not yours. You will never regret having held firm through your affliction.
per·se·ver·ance: it’s worth it.