Perseverance — The Hidden Virtue

Jesus told the disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not lose heart.  Luke 18:1

On the list of personal attributes necessary for someone to make a difference in this world, near the top would surely be perseverance, the energy to carry on and keep moving toward a goal. Perseverance is a hidden virtue. We rarely see what it costs for a person to pick him or herself up, time and again, after failures, disappointments, or fatigue.  

Some have a natural aptitude for perseverance; I know that I don’t. I grew up assuming that if someone could do something that I couldn’t, it was because it came easily to them and not to me, and I would quit. I was in my mid-20s before I learned that anything  worth accomplishing required persistent effort, through a process of study and apprenticeship, making mistakes, learning from them, and trying again.

There is a heart component to perseverance, which may explain why Jesus, when encouraging his disciples to persevere in prayer, didn’t want them to lose heart. Life can be hard and disappointments are real, and we would have to be made of stone not to feel discouraged sometimes. Perseverance is what enables us to find our hearts again, to connect to our heart energy and live from that place inside, even when externally, there is little to show for it.  

I wonder if God needs us to persevere in prayer simply because most things worth praying for will take a long time to realize. We pray for healing, knowing that the process cannot be rushed. We pray for peace, knowing that peace isn’t just lying around but requires intentional reconciliation. We pray for justice, knowing that justice is always hard won. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a testimony to perseverance in struggle, and the long lines of people waiting to get in indicates something of our hunger to know the truth of our past and its stories of resilience and hope. Donna Sampson Rawlings, 59, of Ashton, Md., who watched the opening ceremony on a screen on the Mall, told the Washington Post that the event brought back memories of her father, and of “all the people who weren’t here who did things to get us here.”

If this is a heart-trying time for you; if you’re carrying a heavy burden for yourself or another; if you, like so many, feel discouraged, angry or outraged in response to the seemingly intractable problems before us or the latest offensive actions in the public arena, please remember the importance of tending to your heart. Only you know what it costs to keep going. Find the people, the places, the music that fill you. Remember to breathe. And pray for Jesus, our precious Lord, to take your hand, lead you on, and help you stand. Don’t lose heart. Because we need you. God needs you to persevere.

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