I am blessed to know many great people in my life. Sadly, I see many of them at this time being asked to go through trials that are not all of their choosing or creating. So this is my message for them. Endure.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Upon hearing the word “endurance” or “endure”, most people think of things like marathons or other strength testing scenarios. They picture people pushing through until the race is won. They picture people being tough when things are hard. I confess that I used to think the same thoughts.
This idea certainly makes scriptures that call us to endure our trials seem a little…heartless. It almost equates to “Stop whining. Suck it up. Push through. It’s good for you.” Harsh, yes? I know I am not the only one who has interpreted these scriptures this way. However, I had an experience that changed my beliefs on this entirely.
When my son was two years old, fire ants attacked him. We were new to the desert. I didn’t know fire ants were even here. We had been here for approximately two months. That day I was visiting a lovely friend (who was in turn visiting her parents). She noticed the crisis first, actually. I didn’t have my glasses at the time, and she saw my son in pain before I heard his screams. Anyway. I heard the screams of my child and went running.
There at the edge of a golf course, the two of us began stripping this little toddler naked. Those vile creatures were clinging to him with their jaws. They were huge! We had to smack them and swipe them off his body. They were everywhere, including his feet and private parts. (Yes, we took off his diaper.) My baby boy would not stop screaming.
Soon we were running inside the home that belonged to my friend’s mother. Three grown women. Two mothers and one grandmother. Not one of us knew what to do. We knew his flesh was on fire (metaphorically) and tried everything we could think of to ease his pain. Cool water, cool baths, cool cloths…everything made him scream more intensely. The eldest woman hurried to the nearest pharmacy to seek advice and purchase any necessary items. I will never forget her kindness and generosity. My beautiful friend (without me asking) took my infant daughter downstairs with her own children and cared for all of them magnificently while I sought relief for my son.
I went to a dark room and cried with him while trying to ease his pain. I prayed. I acted on the inspiration that came to me. It helped, but the whole time my baby boy screamed. And I was the only thing he wanted. If I let him go for a moment, his screaming unbelievably escalated. So I held him.
I held him and rocked him while he screamed, clinging to me with all his might. I held him as tight as I could. The whole time I said things like, “I know, baby. I know.” “Just hold onto Mommy.” “Mommy’s here.” “I love you, baby. Mommy loves you.” “It will stop soon, baby. Just hold on until it stops.”
My heart hurt in unspeakable ways. Were it possible, I would have taken every bit of his pain into myself. It is a difficult thing to watch your child hurt so much and not be able to do anything. I know I am not the only mother that understands this.
Eventually, through angels and little miracles, his pain stopped. He fell into a deep sleep the moment it ceased. My friend had shown such kindness to my daughter the whole time we went through this experience that she was at complete ease when I reached for her to finally go home. The next day my son had not a single mark left on him. It was a tender mercy. For months after that, if he felt anything brush his leg, he screamed in horror thinking it was ants. That was the only visible mark the experience left on him, and eventually that subsided as well.
Still, it wasn’t until many years later that my shift in understanding the meaning of endurance happened. It wasn’t until someone I love dearly was going through a trial that wounded her so deeply emotionally and spiritually that she was physically a quivering mass struggling to breathe much of the time. It was during this time that a well-meaning individual shared with her one of the verses asking us to endure our trials well. Her understanding of the word endurance was near identical to mine. Instead of being comforted, she felt hurt. She felt like she was being told to buck up, stop crying, and be stronger. It was in that moment that my son’s story was remembered. There was the answer.
The call to endure is not a chastisement. I firmly believe it is God’s way of asking us to do the same thing I asked my son to do. I believe He is saying, “Hold on to me. Don’t let go. It won’t last forever. I love you. Hold on to me until it stops. Don’t let go.”
When we go through difficult and often crippling trials, many are inclined to turn away from God, to abandon Him. I believe that enduring well means that as we experience the horror and pain that sometimes accompanies this mortal experience we are to cling even more tightly to God. For us, the suffering is all we can see. For us, the pain or the loss is too big to even begin to believe it will ever be less. Only He can see the entire picture. Only He can see what lies beyond. Only He can promise, “It won’t last forever.”
So you amazing people who are being asked to endure life’s trials, please, endure them well. Hear the Lord’s voice calling you to hold tightly to Him. Trust Him. Heed Him. Don’t let go. I promise that you will feel His love through the pain. You might have lingering reminders when it’s all over, but even those will fade if you trust and hold to Him.
Take It, and Be Thankful