July 22, 2023
Summer is my favorite.
I love the sun. I love the heat. I don’t mind the humidity.
My car doesn’t have AC, and I’m not even terribly bothered by it.
But here we are in the dog days of summer, weather not fit for a dog. (Actually the “dog days” goes back to ancient Rome and has to do with the timing of the constellation, Canis Major, and Sirius, a star in that constellation that rises and sets with the Sun–referring to July and August as “dog days.” Nowadays, what it means for us is that we have stopped enjoying summer the way we thought we would!)
By this time of the year, many are sapped by the heat and worn out from all the activities and disrupted rhythms that summer brings. All the energy and enthusiasm for the season has waned, and a cool breeze and a pumpkin latte may sound really good about right now.
What was once enjoyable is now something to be endured.
The word “endure” has a negative connotation. Something unnecessary has happened that we now have to just get through. The key word here is unnecessary. Then, endurance becomes something uselessly hard we feel we could bypass if we were just “better.”
But endurance is more than just futile struggle. Endurance builds something into who we are becoming.
Most commonly, when we think of endurance, we think of the physical.
Cue Eye of the Tiger.
We understand that stamina is developed by gradually adding more weights, miles, and pushing through, until what was once unattainable and difficult becomes manageable, and eventually normal. Resistance builds strength.
Resistance means that something is impeding or acting against you and what you hope. You may be quick to assume that means you aren’t doing something right. But instead of wanting something easier, consider what God wants to form in you as you navigate the difficulty and the obstacles.
What if struggle doesn’t diminish our hope, but becomes a crucible for deepening it?
The Apostle Paul wrote about his suffering and struggle in detail. He considered it an important part of his own journey and those under his care. The reason: “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)
Hope comes from the depth of our character, not the ease of our circumstances.
Hope is deeper than our struggles. Our willingness to endure produces the strength of our character and our identity as one who belongs to the Father.
Our deepening hope corresponds to our deepening dependence.
When our circumstances are painfully stagnant or increasingly difficult, it’s tempting to want to trade in endurance for the dreamy perfection destination thinking offers us. Sometimes our hardships have no guaranteed expiration dates and we just want relief- just get me out of here.
The seasons that require endurance can feel like God is distant or has abandoned us. We can start to feel like God is punishing us for our lack of consistency or some other flaw in our character. We may subtly believe that if we were better then this would not be so hard.
Instead, let’s consider how God is using the hard thing to develop a deep strength in us.
Resistance builds strength…strength and depth of identity and dependence on our Father who loves us and cares for us. And our trust in His love and care are the foundation for our hope.
This foundation- our relationship with Him- is what supports the weight of our hope.
Endurance forces us to consider the moment we are in and only the next step. To endure is to understand that every season and each moment in that season is an important part of the process of our formation.
Endurance is confidence that what is happening right now will give way to something that is yet to be fully seen.
By this time of the year, it may also feel like the dog days of your ONE WORD. All the energy and enthusiasm has waned.
Maybe life has gotten in the way of your best intentions and you’ve found it difficult to keep it in front of you. Maybe your word feels like it no longer fits and that time has rubbed off its luster. Maybe it has been a hard week, hard month, or this year so far feels like a bust and you are waiting for the clean slate 2024 promises.
I want to remind you that God promises to finish the good work in which He began. He intends to follow through and He invites you to do the same. It will require endurance.
Take a few minutes to consider what it would mean for you to endure and what endurance might mean to what God is forming in you.
Write your ONE WORD down in front of you.
What comes to mind when you consider it? Excitement, regret, disappointment, hope?
Consider why you picked your ONE WORD.
Remind yourself of the hope and expectation that you felt when you picked it.
Consider why you are frustrated or what has gotten hard.
Describe the resistance you feel and identify the obstacles you face.
Consider the work God is doing in you.
How can the patience required in this season serve to strengthen your dependence upon Christ and your trust in Him?
These dog days entice us to think that relief will be found when the seasons change. We are prone to believe that things will be better when we are somewhere else.
But the call to endure invites us to live in this moment and trust that God is faithful to do the work that God longs to do… in your life and through your life.