Perseverance: Taking the Good With the Bad

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We are a complaining lot. We make the mistake often of believing that life should be easy and when we run into life’s inevitable difficulties, we feel, somehow, cheated, or lost at sea about the world. Then, feeling unjustly abused, we complain. And, more often than not, we complain about others. Some of us can do this so often that it becomes a reflexive habit, even when our difficulties might be of our own making.

The fact of the matter is that the difficulties of life are neither always someone else’s fault, nor are they always my fault. In reality, life happens. The happiest among us are those who have learned to persevere, those who have developed the spiritual gift of patient endurance. These attitudes are gifts from our generous God. ʺYou have heard of the perseverance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, because the Lord is compassionate an merciful.ʺ (James 5:11)

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How do we learn these attitudes? How do we make ourselves open to them? The best way, of course, is through constant prayer, not just in the bad times, but also in the good times. We need to develop the HABIT of prayer. That is the best way to deepen our relationship with God. In the good times, let us give thanks for all the good things that God has given us, the great and the small. Like, when the sun comes out after seemingly endless days of rain and storms, even if it is only a brief moment, give thanks to God for the sudden awareness of nature’s beauty that such a moment presents us. Have you not experienced surprising moments of joy in the midst of some long and burdensome times in your life that, broke the darkness, lifted the weight of your suffering, if only for a brief moment? Do you remember how that brief relief strengthened you to go on?

When difficulties come, let us follow our natural, spiritual instinct to go to God in prayer. Let us remember, too, that when we are in the midst of troubles, sometimes our prayers are loud with our own concerns and lamenting. It is precisely in those times that we need to take a deep breath, in the presence of God, and ask him for the grace to grow quiet with him for a bit, and for the grace to try to listen to his compassionate voice, to accept his unconditional mercy. That is what he want us to have. That is his purpose.

When I catch myself ʺcomplainingʺ about life, in general, I stop, laugh at myself for my petty foolishness, and I offer a brief prayer of thanksgiving for the insight, and the moment. When I catch myself complaining about some other person’s slights, or petty failures toward me, I stop for a moment, laugh at my own petty foolishness, and pray for that person. And, oh, what a relief it is to let go of all that complaining. Thanks be to God’s compassion and mercy!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.