The final month of both of my pregnancies was undoubtedly the hardest. I couldn’t get comfortable, the days felt like weeks, and I couldn’t help but wonder, How long, O Lord, until this baby comes? Pregnancy involves endurance, a small picture of what’s required of us in the Christian life as we navigate this world as pilgrims, waiting for the Lord to return or take us home.
Our hearts cry, How long, O Lord? And we wait. We labor. We groan as the creation groans to see its brokenness made new and beautiful. We yearn in our earthly tents for solid, eternal buildings. As a pregnant mother longs to hold her child, we long to see the guaranteed result of our endurance. And sometimes in our suffering, we wonder if we will in fact endure.
Four Sources of Endurance
How can we press on as we traverse this broken world? In his letter, James encourages us with at least four sources of endurance.
1. You can endure because God will use your suffering.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4)
We do not count trials as joyous, just as a mother does not call the pain of labor and delivery pleasant. Rather, we count what God is doing in and through those trials as joyous. And what is he doing? Increasing our faith. Making us like himself. Teaching us Christlikeness. Molding us into spiritual maturity.
We can count trials as “all joy” because trials train us in godliness. Unless there is labor and delivery, there is no baby; unless there are trials to test and train our faith, there is no faithfulness and little fruit. We can endure because our suffering isn’t useless, and our God is at work in the midst of it.
2. You can endure because God will end your suffering.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
Many trials don’t feel light and momentary, but Scripture says they are (2 Cor. 4:17). The grand scheme of God’s purposes will far outweigh our suffering and eventually overwhelm it.
Know this: Your suffering comes with an expiration date.
Friends, your suffering will end—your God will see to it. We don’t know his timing or his means, or even grasp all his purposes in bringing us through the fire right now. But we do know his promise: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
Know this: Your suffering comes with an expiration date. It won’t last forever. And this promise gives us hope to press on.
3. You can endure because God will reveal himself to you in your suffering.
Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:11)
Our greatest gain—above even the removal of our suffering and perfect blessedness in glory—is Christ. He is our aim, our goal, the joy set before us. We will endure as we fix our eyes on him and seek him in the midst of our trials; and he is gracious to use these trials to reveal himself to us.
Why does James mention Job at the end of his letter? Job endured horrific suffering with steadfastness, and the Lord used all of it to reveal himself to Job as a compassionate and merciful Redeemer (Job 19:25). If Job had known less of pain and trials, he would have known less of his Savior.
When we are desperate, we are more likely to turn to the Lord. When we come to him, he will minister to us from his infinite stores of love and grace. And we will come to know him in new and deeper ways.
4. You can endure because God will receive you in your suffering.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20–22)
Few pregnant women decide to remain stoic during labor and delivery. No, as a woman labors and feels pain, she expresses her groaning and cries out for deliverance. Similarly, as we endure suffering, we can bring our cries and pleas, lament and grief, to the God who can handle it all.
If Job had known less of pain and trials, he would have known less of his Savior.
Job endured his suffering by tearing his clothes, sitting in the dust, even asking God many questions—and Scripture is clear that he did not sin. As you endure trials, bring your cries and cares to the Man of Sorrows who knows and understands, since he endured the most horrible suffering in your place. Lament isn’t wrong. Even Jesus wept, and he will receive you in your tears.
For the Joy
For the joy set before us, we press on in our suffering. As a waiting mother will eventually hold her baby after much hard labor and whisper, “You were worth it all,” so the church of Christ will one day behold his face and testify to the same: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power” (Rev. 4:11).
We press on toward this beautiful end in steadfast endurance—toward Jesus, the Son of Righteousness, in all his majesty and beauty.