While on a pilgrimage walk on the Camino de Santiago (St. James Way) in Spain, I asked some of the most committed and courageous faith-driven business leaders I know to guest contribute to Purposed worKING. Enjoy! – Rusty
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
This is a topic that’s been on my mind quite a bit lately. I don’t know about you but I’ve certainly had my share of suffering in life and I’m reasonably sure that there’s more to come. In considering “suffering” I think about physical pain brought on by an injury or illness; emotional pain resulting from a broken relationship or unmet expectations; psychological pain in the form of depression or shame.
I’ve definitely had my periods of suffering in the context of work. I think to times in my life when work was seemingly unbearable for a myriad of reasons: hostile co-workers; days filled with mind-numbing tasks; unreasonable bosses; well, you get the picture. I’ve also been laid off and found myself questioning my value as a person because my identity was so closely tied to my work. In short, work has been a source of much suffering throughout the course of my life.
I have to be honest… I really, really, dislike suffering. If I had it my way, I would never have to endure suffering one more moment of my life. That said, the Bible has a much different perspective on suffering. In his letter to the Romans, Paul states that “we also glory in our sufferings”. WHAT?!?! Glory and rejoicing are not the first things that come to mind when I think of suffering. Paul goes on to say that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” So… suffering can lead to hope. Huh.
I do believe in my heart that suffering can lead to hope. However, I don’t think that suffering necessarily leads to hope. I don’t think that suffering necessarily produce perseverance. I think suffering provides an opportunity for perseverance. I think we can just “make it” or just “survive” through suffering and I don’t think the product in that case is perseverance. I’ve thought a lot about what perseverance looks like in the midst of suffering and while I can’t say definitively for everyone what it should look like, I have an idea what it looks like for me.
To me, to persevere is to contend. To suck it up and continue to do the right things no matter how painful. To love those who are not easy to love. To be an example to those around us and approach seemingly impossible situations at work with a positive attitude. To humble myself when I feel like I’m being attacked.
I’m going through a period of suffering even as I type this and I ask myself, “what will this period reveal about my character? Will I persevere and emerge from this period with hope, or will I just survive?”
For now, I will glory in my suffering and see what follows.
Reference: Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)