The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, contains many stories of people who went through suffering and needed God to get them through.
Often, these people were promised by God that they were going to gain something at the end of their hard journey. Their faithfulness and belief that God would sustain them through these hard times was paramount to their journey. Another thing that was key was their perseverance.
Perseverance is one of those things that I think we talk a lot about but don't often apply to our own lives. I think we can find it easy to give up when things get tough, when we can't see a way through, when the end just isn't quite in sight.
Especially now, there always seems to be something else to do - something else to try or distract us from the struggle we might be facing, which may make it easier to give up.
But I think in our daily lives when we give up on something and we do not persevere, we really miss out on seeing the fruits of our hard work, and we don't get to enjoy the ending.
A hard journey
The other week I took a trip out to the west coast of Auckland. There are some magnificent beaches out there, amongst beautiful bush and tall ridges and clifftops. A number of walking tracks in the area allow for a close exploration of the natural beauty.
The track we chose took a path up the side of a headland, across another beach and up the cliff to an incredible viewpoint. The walk wasn't going to be very long time-wise, but the tracks heading up were steep. I didn't want to walk up to the top of the cliff. I didn't want to trudge slowly up the track. I knew that it would be tiring and it wouldn't be over quickly.
I did know that the view would be amazing; that I would feel a sense of achievement once I made it to the top and could take in the beauty of the west coast. But I really needed encouragement to get myself going.
The journey is worth it
When I got to the top of the cliff, the one thing on my mind was not how tired I was, but in fact it was just 'wow'. 'Wow', the view was amazing. I really was blown away with how magnificent, how breathtaking the view truly was. The slow climb up the cliff really was worth it. I realised later how happy I was with how the day had turned out.
I think sometimes we get tripped up on the difficulty that is right in front of us. We can't see past the hard journey we are on and we aren't motivated enough towards the fruit to gain at the end.
God promises things to us, knowing that we can see them come into fruition, and He wants us to get there. The journey might be difficult but if we turn to God and enlist His strength to do it, it might just be easier.
After all, Jesus tells us in Matthew that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew chapter 11, verse 30).
Thinking back to my walk, while I wasn't really suffering, I might've given up if I hadn't been encouraged. If I hadn't been able to even slightly imagine the wonder I would experience at the top of the cliff, then I might not have made it there.
Earthly encouragement or living hope
On this walk there was someone verbally encouraging me, but often there are moments in our journeys when there isn't someone else there to encourage us.
We might feel alone, or perhaps the people we normally seek motivation from are the very people we are struggling with. Perhaps there is an issue at work, school or home and you're just not sure who can encourage you.
In these times, where do you find your encouragement to persevere? As followers of Jesus, that person is right beside us, with us, in us. Do we turn to His word and be encouraged by what He has done, and is doing?
1 Peter chapter 1, verses 3-4 talk about how through Jesus we have been born into a living hope. We don't need to rely on earthly encouragement when we can live in eternal hope through Jesus.
God can be the encouragement that we need to persevere. I think we can be encouraged that, when we persevere, we can get to a place of 'wow', a place of amazement. God wants us to live in delight and wonder, and He will help us to live in that. Sometimes we need to persevere.