5 Gifts We Gain by Persevering through Trials
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33
Most of us don’t jump for joy when we consider that we will face a life of challenges. To be frank, John 16:33 is not the most encouraging of Scriptures, when we recognize that Jesus is promising us we will be faced with many hardships. However, when we read on to the latter part of that verse, we see that he also promises the certainty that we will overcome through his strength.
My life has been no shortage of challenges. I’ve been sexually assaulted, suffered the death of both my parents and all my grandparents, faced financial challenges, parented alone for many years, suffered several forms of abuse, endured loneliness, encountered parenting woes with my children, battled suicidal thoughts, lost everything I owned in a flood, and much more. And while your list may vary from mine, I have no doubt that you, too, can create an extensive list of the challenges you’ve walked through in your life. The ups and downs of this world are at the very least a “constant” that many of us will face.
The certainty of challenges means that we must become good at recognizing the value of perseverance. The value of simply “staying the course” is one that we must understand and frankly, learn to embrace. While the midst of the hardship can sometimes seems unbearable and the challenges insurmountable, we always have John 16:33b to lean on. Take heart, my friends. Take heart. Our Savior has overcome the world!
But when you are in the midst of a challenge, as many of you likely are right now, it can be hard to see the value of perseverance. Let me share with you a few things that the Lord has taught me through the journey of hardships:
1. Increased faith.
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. - Hebrew 11:1 (NLT).
The faith to believe God in times of uncertainty is a learned habit that we strive to increase in our Christian walk. I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life when it has been really hard to have faith that God is going to move that mountain. The mountain seems to big, too hard, too permanent. The mountain covers the sky from some angles, and there’s seem to be no way over or around it.
But the thing about faith is that it increases as we practice it in the face of struggle. I’ve learned more about my God and myself through the darkest of moments. There is no mountaintop experience without the valley experience. The depths of the valley of loneliness, marital challenges, hurt, and pain, create a more meaningful experience on the mountaintop. I could’ve never enjoyed my mountaintop experiences the way I have been able to without the darkest moments in my valleys.
2. Increased joy.
Be aware! Joy is not happiness. Happiness is good. It’s laughter and warm sun on a smiling face. It’s the celebration of a bride walking down the aisle, the birth of a sweet baby, the celebration of a promotion at work. But happiness is temporary. It’s fleeting – comes and goes like the wind.
That warm sun can quickly fade to thunderstorms. That laughter may one day be tears. That bride could soon face marital challenges. That new baby may be really hard to parent in the future. That promotion could lead to extra stress on the job.
Life’s circumstances can dictate our happiness. But joy...oh sweet joy. Now, that’s a different story. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. (See Galatians 5:22-23). Joy is permanent. It comes from an acceptance that Jesus is Lord, God is Father, and that the Spirit produces it.
Joy is the understanding that God carries us through the difficulties of life. Joy is the knowledge that this life is temporary and its circumstances also temporary. Perseverance is cresting to the other side of happiness to find the deep joy that awaits.
For example, there was a time, many years ago, when my husband and I almost lost our marriage. It was a dark time, when there were too many problems to list. We had both failed to invest in our marriage the way we should, and time took its toll. The happiness of my wedding day was replaced with a deep sadness.
But over time and with lots of work, perseverance led us to a place of great intimacy in our marriage that we now enjoy today. I have joy in my marriage that it is forever, knowing we are both committed to the process of improving it daily. I wouldn’t have known that joy, but for the hardships we’ve faced.
3. Increased influence.
In 2007, I started a small Bible study for single mothers. There were three single moms who attended. Today, 83,000 single mothers a year connect to a single moms’ Bible study in a church through The Life of a Single Mom Ministries.
I am certain that my years of parenting alone gave me credibility with single mothers to know that I had been there, done that, and lived to tell about it. I know that the long days of taking small kids to the grocery store as a young single mom with little money and even smaller patience led to the development of that ministry. What would’ve happened if I didn’t persevere? What would’ve happened to that 83,000 single mothers last year if I hadn’t surrendered my life to Christ, endured the difficulties of single motherhood, and taken the leap of faith to start that ministry?
Sometimes, our commitment to persevere through our difficulties is the very thing the Lord will use to show us our calling. Maybe you’ve endured cancer, the death of a spouse, financial difficulties, or something else. The ability to sit with a friend and hold her hand through that same thing will be one that God may very well use later in your life. Praise God for the hardships. It will likely turn into a harvest for His glory one day.
4. Increased strength.
When I’m at the gym and I see someone hold the plank position for several minutes, or do countless push-ups, or battle through mountain-climbers and burpees at a rate of speed that far exceeds my own, I have great admiration for their strength. When a lady in her forties and waves goodbye and her arms don’t jiggle for thirty seconds afterwards, I admire those arms! But I would be ignorant to think that such physical attributes were just stumbled upon that day at the gym.
That mountain-climber extraordinaire did not wake up Saturday morning and decide she could do 100 mountain-climbers. She worked at it. She exercised her muscle repeatedly. The same is true for our spiritual strength. Increased strength comes from exercising those muscles. Strength comes in the persevering of life. Strength is developed in the pushing through, when everything inside us wants to quit. Strength is developed in the training season, so that perseverance is birthed over time and becomes our habit and knee-jerk reaction to hardships.
5. Increased peace.
“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” - John 14:27 (NLT).
I have no doubt that the night the disciples were on the boat and the storm came while Jesus slept, they were convinced the storm would take them out. I also have no doubt that when Jesus awoke and commanded the storm to calm that it was a forever life-changing experience that none forgot.
The storms of life are inevitable. They are scary. And many of them seem like they could take us out. They are so big and so scary that we don’t know how we’ll ever get to the other side.
But… when our Jesus stands and utters the words, “Peace be still,” it makes the endurance of the storm all worth it. For in that command, we see the power of God. We see the strength of His mighty, victorious hand. We see the certainty that in our worlds we’ll face trouble, but we’ll also face the knowing that our God overcame it all.
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Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues including The New York Times, Christian Broadcasting, Daystar Television, Focus on the Family Magazine, and many others. She is Chief Executive Officer of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and serves more than 1,500 churches and 83,000 single mothers annually. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.