It is part of life that some form of trials, struggles, hardships will come our way and will call us to perseverance.
What is perseverance? Webster dictionary defines it as “a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failures, or oppositions.” Synonyms include persistence, endurance, steadfastness, determination.
Perseverance is called forth in the various arenas in life. For example, a person who embarks on writing a novel may need perseverance- the steadfastness and patience to wait for the ideas to flow. Think of the athlete who has to develop the skill of a sport and physically develop muscle strength and flexibility. The scientist who tries many experiments before the theory becomes a reality or maybe it never comes to fruition. Julie Andrews states, “Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th time.”
What about the virtue of perseverance on our spiritual journey? Perseverance is the virtue that helps us to be steadfast on our spiritual journey even when faced with difficulties, struggles, challenges and setbacks. Perseverance helps us to maintain trust and faith in the Lord who walks with us no matter what life throws at us.
The word perseverance and its equivalent words are found more than forty-five times in the New Testament. In some English translations words used for perseverance are patience, endurance, and steadfastness.
The Bible is replete with stories about individuals who relied on the virtue of perseverance, who persevered in their faith and trust in the Lord despite their difficulties.
I immediately think of two persons in the New Testament, Jesus, the Christ, from Nazareth and Paul of Tarsus.
Concerning Jesus, we read in Hebrews 12:1-3, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart” (RSV).
Paul of Tarsus faced many tribulations was arrested, put on trial, and imprisoned more than once yet persevered in his mission to bring the gospel of Jesus to others. “We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the dying of Jesus, so that life of Jesus may be manifested in our body” (2 Cor. 4:8-10) NABR, 2010.
Just as Jesus and Paul persevered in their mission, we are called to persevere in our mission as disciples even when faced with difficulties.
In conclusion, the author of James 1:4 exhorts us to “let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (NIV).
By Sister Marie Leonard, OSB