I placed a problem in front of my students with some instructions and gave them a time limit (I’m a high school math teacher…did you guess?) Once I asked them to get started solving the problem, hands started to shoot up across the room.
“I don’t get it.
Where are we supposed to start? What are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to do this?”
I had determined in advance that I would not answer questions, but instead, I would only ask them. So, I responded.
“Did you ask your teammates that question? Did you try to draw a diagram? Did you read all of the instructions? What pattern do you see here?”
I walked around the room answering questions with questions. After an hour of forcing those kids to stick to their task, they finally began to solve the problem, without my help. They didn’t think they could; they got frustrated and wanted to give up. They wanted someone to just give them the answers, so they could move on to another thing. But I wanted to see them persevere through this problem solving exercise.
And, in the end?
They discovered that they could do it. They felt the power of success (despite challenges). They experienced the joy of working through a problem with a team and finding a solution.
As I think about it, I wonder if God works that way too sometimes. We get frustrated by the struggles we face in life and we come to Him with all our questions. We want answers. We want Him to lead us straight to the exit sign and get us out of this problem. But instead, He has a lot of questions for us. He wants us to learn something from this particular situation and to grow in the character trait of perseverance. He gives us the support of the family of God and He never leaves our side, but He doesn’t always just give us those answers like we wish He would.
Perseverance requires tackling life’s “problems” and seeking solutions despite continued frustration. I have to admit that I don’t see a lot of perseverance in the youth of today. They want short cuts and easy outs. They are used to doing things quickly and finding answers through google at the touch of a finger. But hopefully, as the years go by, they will learn perseverance, because when I look around at my elders, perseverance is what shines through.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
It’s not the people who start great projects that inspire us. It’s the people who finish well, those who stick to a vision through thick and thin. Perseverance is found in the marriages that last 50 years, the missionary who stayed in a country with little faith, the mother of a child with severe disabilities, or the family whose loved one fights through a terrible disease.
We look at those people who made it through severe circumstances and the daily ups and downs of life and hung on to their faith in God no matter what, and that’s where we find the hope and strength to stick to it in our own situation. We realize we are not alone and we may not see the easy out or the quick answers, but we know God is by our side and we have the support of others, so we can carry on.
I want to be a person who is marked by perseverance at the end of my life. I don’t want to be someone who just starts exciting new ventures, but a person who clung tight to Jesus no matter what and who rose above the challenges of life and fought the good fight through it all.