“You’re more talented than most everyone here! The problem is you’re lazy.” The words stung my 15 year old pride. They were uttered by my stout, greying (with a bun) German art teacher, as she marched by my desk. I’ve never forgotten her harsh dismissal because I wasn’t churning out enough art work. A question already nibbling at my peace was, “Why can’t I learn to persevere? I often don’t finish what I start.”
Over time, I realized that it was not laziness that was causing me to drag my feet in procrastination at times, or at other times, to outright quit. The problem was my thoughts.
Truth is, I really could be a go-getter and a very hard worker at times. But I was unable to be that way consistently because of the things I believed about myself and the world.
Is that why you opened this article? Do you struggle with giving up too easily?
What’s going on in our heads when we quit?
What were some of the things that I was thinking about myself when I failed to persevere? I had thoughts like, “This is too hard. I don’t know how to do it. I’m missing the right skills. No one will help me. It will look bad if I fail.”
Have you ever thought like that? Been discouraged before you even “got out of the gate?” Well, I want to tell you that you can complete projects. You can hang in there and go from being too often a quitter to being a person who always completes their work and succeeds. You can also face the storms of life and not give up.
There are spiritual insights, wisdom that comes from God, which, as you gain it, will cause your capacity to “hang in there” to grow.
Gaining perseverance through 5 beliefs
Here is a list of 5 spiritual insights that lead to perseverance. How to gain them will be more fully explained below. Perseverance becomes a hallmark of who you are when you:
Accept that battles are part of life.
Accept that you must be a life-long learner.
Cultivate a strong work ethic.
Learn to lean on God in every way.
Love yourself when you fail, then simply try again.
1. Accept that battles are a part of life
I wish every time we overcome some battle stricken area in our life we could lean back on the couch, put our feet up, and say, “Phew! That’s over. I’ll never have trouble again.”
But, it doesn’t work that way, does it? In a very well-known verse, Jesus summed up the nature of life’s constant battles. He said, “I have told you these things [His teachings], 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 NIV)
Jesus was saying that no sooner than when you finish one battle, another one WILL crop up. Sometimes, you may have several battles ongoing simultaneously. And what do I mean by battles?
Battles come in many shapes and sizes
You may have a deadline to meet for a work project. There may be people personally attacking you. Perhaps, you have one or more sick loved ones you’re caring for. Your teenager may be failing in school. Battles can be people hurting you, illnesses attacking you, work that has piled up, a new skill to learn to hold onto your job.
What makes them all the same is that you need to learn how to press through them and not give up. The first step, honestly, is just making peace with the fact that battles exist. Life is full of them. Partly, it’s because this is a fallen world. You’ve got to learn how to rise up and take them on, not turning back.
Drop the comparisons, focus on your path
Especially, you cannot give up because you view others around you as “competition.” You may be tempted to quit because people around you seem smarter or more talented. But, it is the person who persists who often gets to the finish line of what they long to accomplish or are called by God to accomplish.
2. Accept that there are always things to learn
So many people feel vulnerable when they find themselves in the position of being a beginner. Let’s say you take on a new job or ministry and you don’t really know how to do all that’s required of you. That’s an easy set up for procrastination or quitting.
But, there are always new things to learn no matter how old you get. Even if you move into a new neighborhood, you need to learn where the post office is, the best grocery stores for your family’s needs, where the schools are. In this day and age, you can search online, but sometimes you just have to look into another person’s eyes and say, “Can you help me? I don’t know how to do this, or, where to go.”
If we recognize that we’ll always have to learn new things and accept the beginner’s mistakes we make or the foolishness we may display, it’s so much easier to keep going/trying. “I’ll get it eventually,” we can learn to say, and brush off our own mistakes. We can feel peace with the “learning curve” we must go through.
A.J. Cronin and the soggy bundle
“Author A.J. Cronin was a medical doctor at age thirty-three in London’s West End, and he said, ‘I wasn’t a bad doctor.’ But he was frustrated by a certain character flaw that inhibited everything that he did. He didn’t stick with any one thing for long. He lacked perseverance.” This is Robert J. Morgan’s description of Cronin from his book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, (pp. 611-612).
Cronin became ill suddenly, and was diagnosed with gastric ulcers. He was told to take six months’ rest on a milk diet somewhere in the country away from work.
For Cronin, the Scottish highlands were the answer. He retreated to a small farmhouse but became terribly bored. Luckily, during this time, he remembered something he’d always wanted to do, and that was to write.
Writer’s block and a walk in the rain
Cronin struggled to begin writing, staring at the empty pages of the two dozen tablets he had bought. Finally, he began to put a story down on paper. He wrote, wadded up paper, wrote some more. Eventually, he sent his manuscript to London where his secretary typed it up and returned it to him.
When he read it, he despised it and threw it in the trash. Then he set out for a walk in the rain.
He happened upon an old farmer named Angus, who was “digging in the bog.” Cronin told him that he was ready to quit writing. “No doubt you’re right, doctor, and I’m the wrong one. I keep digging in this bog, like my father before me. But he believed and I do too, that if you dig long enough, a pasture can be made here.”
Renewed passion to persevere
Cronin knew he was being taught a valuable lesson about persistence. He raced back to the farmhouse, soaked and cold. He retrieved the soggy bundle out of the trash bin and laid it around the kitchen to dry. Over the next few months, he wrote furiously and then sent his manuscript to a publisher. He had almost forgotten about it, but on the last day of his farmhouse stay, a telegram came with an invitation to meet the publisher as soon as possible.
The novel Cronin wrote was called Hatter’s Castle. It was ultimately translated into nineteen languages, was bought by Hollywood, and went on to sell millions of copies. Not only that, Cronin wrote many more books.
If he had not persevered at learning a new skill, writing, none of this would ever have happened!
3. Cultivate a strong work ethic
The authors of the Bible talk about hard work as being a virtuous thing. They also describe the dangers of not pressing through to finish tasks. In Proverbs 6:6-11, you find praise for the ant’s work style and warning for those who don’t apply themselves to work:
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
God has a plan designed for you
But, you know what? More motivating than this warning of slacking off leading to poverty and defeat, is the Bible’s talk of God’s absolute concern for you. God put each of us here for special purposes, only we can accomplish. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) tells us that, “…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
There’s no one else who can be you; who can do what you have been predestined to do.
4. Learn to lean on God in every way
Whether you’re facing spiritual attack and need to battle through it, or a deadline at work, God has so much wisdom and guidance to share with you. Plus, He gives His very presence to sustain us. He can give you wisdom to break down projects or things you need to learn into simple steps. Then, rather than seeing the big end goal looming over you and feeling like “I’ll never get there,” you can proceed step by simple step.
God can reignite your optimism, restore your hope, and make you mentally tough. Pray every need to Him and then listen. Listen through His Word, through other faith-filled, trustworthy people, through worship music, through the inner voice of the Holy Spirit teaching and guiding you.
5. Love yourself when you fail, then simply try again
Finally, there’s one more thing you need to accept. You’re going to fail now and then in your life. Something you try to do just won’t work. Do you beat yourself up in these moments? Call yourself names? NO! Analyze what the problems are, dust off, get up, and try again.
I think a lot of us have heard the story of Edison inventing the light bulb – that it took 1,000 tries. Imagine if he had stopped at 999. Would we still be reading by candles?
Learning to persevere with our first steps
We live in an age where these lessons of perseverance need to be taught to the youngest among us, and renewed in the minds of all generations. Too many people give up too easily. Too many people see themselves as victims who “won’t be able to make it, saying there’s just too much going against me.”
Focus on the Family has a very helpful article on perseverance with ideas for teaching children of all ages how to persist.
We need to recover the grit of those who came before us. Faith in God through Jesus Christ recreates us to be bold fighters for what is good in life and eternal. Remember, Jesus, “for the joy set before Him, endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Endurance is just another word for perseverance. He can form this in you!
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