The thing about life is that it has a tendency to swallow you whole. Have you noticed? One minute you’re skipping through your day, dolling out your yes’s and your I’d be glad to’s like free candy and the next you’re in over your head, swamped by all the many things you thought you could manage. Over-committed and overwhelmed you’re now trudging through the day, biding your time till the next cup of coffee – hoping it’ll hold you over to the moment you can at last crawl back into bed. I know the feeling, I’ve been there before. And let me tell you the one truth that got me through: this season won’t last forever.
I’m absolutely in favor of guarding your time. Create a sabbath, set aside time to rest, allow room for white space on your day timer. But as a fellow human on this walk through life let me share something with you: you are going to encounter strenuous seasons. You can’t escape it. No amount of carving out free time and declining invitations can safeguard you from the constant whirl of our world. We live on a spinning planet, one that is imperfect and subject to chaos. Of course we are going to find ourselves encircled with hard days, arduous work, or at the bare minimum – busyness. It is the fate of being a mortal on this side of heaven.
But let me remind you once more, this season – whether busy with work, plagued by illness, racked with financial crisis, burdened by relationships, or dripping with stress – won’t last forever.
Three months ago we warily put a cast together and began rehearsals for the annual musical at our local high school. Everyone involved in the production put in countless hours of work, we all spent more late nights at the high school gym than anyone should in their lifetime. From my perch at the piano bench I watched each night as the show progressed, characters developing, harmonies getting tighter, dance steps improving. By the time we arrived at opening night and the curtain opened, all the long hours and short nights seemed worth it. I was mesmerized by the sheer joy and delight radiating off that stage. The season didn’t last forever, and what’s more – it was worth every moment.
The human body has a very high capacity of tolerance when there is anticipated joy at the end of all the hardship. Just look at all the people who’ve run marathons and climbed mountains and birthed babies. Just look at soldiers and first responders and firemen. Just look at Jesus, hanging on the cross, nails hammered through his hands and feet, thorns stuck into his head, suffocating to death as his blood trickled down his naked body. Endurance was possible because the agony wouldn’t last forever. Endurance was possible because there was joy at the end of it all.
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12: 1-3)
There it is, the model of endurance set before us by our Savior. He didn’t enjoy the cross, he didn’t relish his time spent dying a most excruciating death, he didn’t savor the mocking voices that ridiculed him as he struggled to take his final breaths. But there was joy ahead of him, the joy of reconciliation with his children and a future together in eternity with him, and so he endured. He knew the season wouldn’t last forever, and there was joy at the end of it.
I know, it seems almost silly to compare our present difficulties to the sufferings of Jesus. How can a challenging job, or a teething baby, or college finals, or any number of our first-world problems possibly be similar to the death of God? And yet he invites us to look to him, look to his example of endurance, no matter what our circumstances look like. Surely if he withstood such agony we can make it through our challenges. You are not alone, he whispers. Look to me and remember: this season won’t last forever.