Do you struggle with pressures and perseverance? Here’s an experience to share with your small group or friends.
Ask each woman to place graham crackers on a plate in front of her. Each graham cracker square represents an area of responsibility in her life (mother, wife, employee, supervisor, ministry leader, volunteer, board member). Or areas may be situational such as health, finances, or travel. Women will then use icing to write a letter or create a symbol to represent each area the graham crackers represent. For “mother,” a simple “M” will do, or those women who are a bit more creative might design a smiley face with hair standing on end and eyes closed in exhaustion.
Next, women place chocolate chips on each cracker to indicate the burden associated with each area of their lives. So, an area which has little burden has only one or two chocolate chips on it, and an area that has overwhelming burden might be overflowing with chocolate chips!
Remind women: This might seem like a yummy treat when we look at one or two of our crackers, especially when we think we have the best ratio of cracker, icing and chocolate! But what if you had to eat everything you have in front of you all in one sitting?
- What surprised you as you were setting up your crackers?
- What areas do you feel the most weight/burden and why?
- When was the last time you felt an added burden? A release of a burden?
- How do you typically cope with pressures of everyday life?
- How is this experience like coping with the everyday responsibilities and situations in your life?
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:3-8
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish, its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. James 1:2-8
We all start somewhere. And if we aren’t deliberate, we’ll just stay in that same place! Yet these two passages point out perseverance is part of the growth process. In other words, if you stay put, you won’t grow.
So, this might seem odd to you. How can we “stick” to something and grow at the same time? Aren’t we trying to learn how not to get caught up in the constantly changing, move-on-to-the-next-great-thing culture?
What we need to stick to is not a place or situation. What we want to stick to is perseverance itself. Romans says perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. The situation in this passage involves some type of suffering. Our perseverance isn’t about sticking to the situation causing our suffering. Our perseverance focuses on what will take a through our sufferings and other situations. We stick to perseverance because it’s perseverance which leads to hope, which according to the Bible, doesn’t disappoint us because of who God is!
Of course, we don’t know how long our sufferings will last. Perhaps a brief time, perhaps a lifetime. But when we stick our feet into the sinking sand of our sufferings, we’re definitely not going anywhere. When we set our sights on perseverance, we develop character and the hope. And hope carries us through our trials as we grow in our relationship with God.
As the passages of James say, we cannot mature without perseverance. Ouch! So, if we’re not persevering, we’re not growing; we’re staying childish. God has a plan and purpose for each of us, but we can only fulfill that purpose if we are growing, which means persevering through trials and struggles! If we refuse to grow up, we can’t begin to accomplish what God has planned for us.
In the original Greek language of these verses, the terms, perseverance, character, suffering, and hope, are all entwined in their definitions. How are they tied together in your life?