Patient endurance

“In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” —2 Peter 1:5-7 (NLT)

Hikers celebrating a mountainous climb.

You need endurance to complete a marathon, but you also need patience. Twenty-eight miles of non-stop running requires both physical strength and mental determination. But you also need patience in a marathon. Strength has limits. Push too hard and you won’t make the finish line. Pace yourself. Push but conserve at the same time. Be patient.

There are lots of physical challenges like that. When I was in recovery after breaking my hip and undergoing replacement surgery, about all I could do at first was to walk slowly and painfully with the aid of a walker. Each day I pushed myself to do a bit more, and when I started physical therapy, I had a coach who pushed me by adding new exercises or larger numbers of repetitions with each session. The process of recovery took months (patience) and forced me to push myself harder every day (endurance).

Patient endurance shows up a lot in the New Testament, both as a way to respond to the difficulties life throws at us and as a mantra that describes the work we do as we throw off our sinful desires and submit to the renewing work of the Holy Spirit. We’re called to resist evil (patience) as we live in a fallen world, looking ahead to the hope of being united with Christ in Heaven (endurance).

In English, patience and endurance are two separate concepts, the first suggesting acting with restraint while the second suggests pushing hard against things that might restrain us. But in the Greek of the New Testament, these are molded into a single concept described by the word hupomone. Literally, the word means “to remain under,” which suggests bearing a heavy load without shrugging it off.

A husband who takes loving care of his wife during her long decline into Alzheimer’s would exhibit hupomone. A young woman who becomes afflicted by multiple-sclerosis and who lives into her illness with dignity and peace would exhibit hupomone.

When my father died and left my mother with three young children, she was heartbroken and sometimes frightened, doubtful that she could care for and support us by herself. But she grew determined to find a way, and as I look back on all she did to bring us safely into adulthood, she was a posterchild for hupomone. She endured, she persisted, and in that persistence she didn’t lose hope. She remained faithful to God and actively served and loved her friends even as she carried a great weight of responsibility for her children.

To remain under means not cutting and running when life throws very difficult circumstances at us. And why do we patiently endure? Because we believe in a God who is faithful, true, good, and present. Because Jesus patiently endured the cross for us. Because patient endurance is how we live out our love for others, our love for ourselves, and our love for our Father in Heaven.

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