I opened the present and found a book that seemed as thick as the dictionary. “I challenge you to read War and Peace,” he said. It was a gauntlet thrown down by a family friend who knew how much I loved to read. I’d read every book I could get my hands on and was always searching for more. I could tell this one wouldn’t be easy, but I was ready to accept his challenge.
I soon realized I was in over my head. This book was over a thousand pages, with a list of characters a mile long, each with long complicated Russian names. I knew it was a classic novel and surely a great story, but it was daunting to read. No matter how many pages I plodded through, there seemed an infinite number remaining. My resolve began to waver. I was losing my patience in the journey of reading this book.
Week by week, my friend kept asking if I’d finished it yet. Each week I had to admit how little progress I’d made. It felt like a failure – each and every week. Why couldn’t I get through this book??? How long would this take? When would it start to get easier?
One week, I decided to shortcut the process. I thought maybe if I just read the last chapter, I could say I read it. I know, totally cheating, but I thought it might be the only way I’d ever make it to the end. I told my friend I finished the book. But, I knew. I knew I hadn’t done the work. I didn’t know the story. I didn’t actually finish the book.
How often do we try to shortcut and skip ahead when life gets hard?
How often do we enter hard seasons of life and start focusing on how to skip to the end, instead of leaning into the middle? We begin with hope and resolve, but as the days and months and years drag on we begin to waver. We begin to question how much longer until life eases up.
When we try to skip to the end, we miss the meat of the story where lessons are learned and relationships are forged.
How many plot twists, relationships, and lessons did I miss when I skipped all the middle chapters of War and Peace? How many lessons and relationships do I miss when I spend all my time trying to shortcut the process and skip ahead in my life?
Some seasons of life are flat out hard. Some are way longer than we’d like. Some include hard lessons or difficult changes. Many are seasons we’d rather not endure. Yet, when we walk through each season with God by our side, we’ll discover peace and joy we never expected, experience beauty through the struggle, and encounter blessings beyond our imagination.
Are you in an impossibly long and difficult season and can’t yet see the end?
Don’t try to skip ahead. You may miss the important chapters in the middle. While it may feel like you’re slogging through those middle chapters, there are important lessons and growth that will happen there.
Listen to how The Message translates James 1:2-4:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
Sure, it’s hard to think of your life’s challenges as a gift, but know that in the pressure is where your faith is built and refined. Through the struggle, you’ll encounter God and develop a lasting, life-giving faith – if you’ll only press into the middle and lead on God for endurance.
3 Daily Habits to Cultivate for Patience in the Journey
If you’re struggling through those middle chapters, losing patience with the pace of your journey, begin cultivating these three daily habits. You’ll need extra doses of patience, strength, and endurance for the road ahead. These three habits will support you as you slog through the middle, leaning into the lessons and changes along the way.
Not only will these habits sustain you for the journey, but they’ll help you develop that lasting, life-giving faith described in this passage from James.
1) Pray continually
The best (only) way to persevere through life’s challenges is to lean into daily prayer. Let prayer be your go-to when discouraged or frustrated. Let prayer be your guide as you navigate the twists and turns of the road ahead. Let prayer be your comfort, your strength, and your rest from the storm. As you journey, regularly praise God for his great goodness and faithfulness.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1 NIV)
2) Read your Bible
God will speak life into your soul through his Word. Read and study your Bible daily. Stay firmly rooted in God’s Word and take hope in his promises and examples of his faithfulness.
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105 NIV)
3) Keep a journal
Record your journey. Write down your prayers. Take note of where you see God at work around you. Periodically read back through your journal and look for those threads of how God has been answering your prayers and leading you through this season.
The Lord answered me, “Write down what I show you. Write it clearly on a sign so that the message will be easy to read.” (Habukkuk 2:2 Easy-to-Read Version)
No matter how daunting the season seems, read your book to the end.
Who knows what the plot holds for you in just a few more chapters, so keep reading your story to the end. Your endurance will pay off with the strengthening of your character, a deepening of your faith, and the birth of an unquenchable hope in God.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)