Colossians 1: 9-14
‘Endurance’ (or ‘perseverance’) in the New Testament is a difficult concept. Sometimes, as in Colossians, it is a positive quality – something to be desired, the ability to stand fast, to wait patiently, to survive. Sometimes, it’s more negative, as in 2 Corinthians 6:4, where it’s an expression of something which happens to the believer – it’s listed with troubles, beatings, imprisonment, not purity, patience, kindness.
The root word means something like ‘remaining under’. Endurance is often something over which we have no choice, when we are ‘under’ an external force. An early (or modern) disciple, imprisoned for her faith, is in a situation which is imposed on her, and has no choice but to remain physically. But she can choose to remain faithful, to remain hopeful, to remain loving.
Of course, this is far from easy! And in our humanity, it’s often beyond us. But our humanity, like that of Christ, is sometimes able to endure and grow, far beyond our expectations. I have known people who are enduring, or have endured, a terminal diagnosis, torture, or traumatic bereavement, and whose deepened faith is inspirational.
And in the end, as Colossians 1:11 makes clear, what gives us this human power is the strengthening grace of God, in whose image our humanity is made.
Suffering can produce endurance – this is a comfort for many sufferers. But we need to beware of preaching the virtues of endurance in a way which suggests people should be grateful for their suffering. It is our Christian duty to help alleviate, not dismiss, suffering.
Could you do something to help someone in their endurance? Do you know someone who is unwell, and stuck at home or in hospital, who would appreciate a visit? Perhaps you could write in support of a prisoner of conscience (look at the Amnesty International website)? Who in British society is being expected to endure unacceptable situations? Perhaps you could email those standing in the election in your constituency, to express your concern?
Written by Revd Dr Catrin Harland, Methodist chaplain at the University of Sheffield. Sign up to receive weekly devotionals in your inbox every Monday.