At age four, my father was crippled by rheumatic fever. He endured numerous surgeries throughout his life to return functionality to his frozen joints and limbs.
As a child, he was mocked at school. As a teen, he would have been deemed unfit to join his friends to combat the evil of World War II, something he once told me was his greatest regret. For his whole life, he needed assistance or special tools to button his shirts or pull on his socks or tie his shoes.
I’m sure his feelings about his own handicaps were intensified when his oldest son, my brother, was diagnosed with a mental disability.
By the time I entered first grade, my dad had answered God’s call to become a pastor. For the next three decades, I watched him serve churches and people faithfully through a variety of heartbreaking obstacles.
Toward the end of his life, he beat cancer once.
It won the second time around.
Life wasn’t all trial and tragedy – in the happy gaps, we were a very close family who knew how to love and live and have lots of fun. My dad was one of the most clever and hilarious people I’ve ever met. He was a good teacher and a better pastor, because he had the rare gift of making people feel important. He wasn’t famous or rich or powerful, but he loved Jesus until His last breath.
On days like Father’s Day, or Christmas, or random Tuesdays, I still can’t quite believe he’s not with us.
As we discovered in the last post, Paul prayed for the Church at Colossae to be strengthened according to God’s glorious might (Colossians 1:11). And for what?
We are strengthened to endure.
Not to succeed or win or triumph. Not to be the most perfect or most victorious or most effective. Not to hit it out of the park, although we are grateful when God gives us that kind of grace.
But just to endure. Just to hang in there. Just to hang on.
Jesus Himself made it clear: The one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:13
The word “endure” is not often applied to us in scripture. It is most often applied to the character of God:
His dominion endures Psalm 145:3
His praise endures Psalm 110:10
His steadfast love endures Psalm 118
His faithfulness endures Psalm 117:3
His righteous rules endure Psalm 119:160
And it’s these verses that expose the secret heart of endurance. It’s not digging our nails in, gritting our teeth and gutting it out on our own.
It’s hanging on tightly to the One who endures because endurance is the core of His very nature. Endurance is who He is. He is the God of love and faithfulness and righteousness who does not fail.
My dad was not a perfect man. He did not give me all I needed. But he gave me one thing I did: a testimony rich with hanging on. Through all of his days, though he wandered and stumbled and hurt, he came back to the Truth as his ultimate source of hope and perseverance.
He endured to the end. For that, I am grateful.
If hanging on is all you can do today, be certain you’re clinging to the One who lasts forever.
Know that it is for endurance you have been strengthened, and endurance is enough.