Endurance is defined as “the inward strength to withstand stress and do my best.”
It’s easy to think of endurance primarily as physical, something needed by long distance runners, basketball, soccer, or other athletes, but endurance is not only important for handling physical stress, but also mental and emotional stress that comes with challenging relationships or financial strain or heartaches caused by the pain of others.
Personally, I was fortunate to have made it through many years of my life with relatively few bumps in the road. I learned a little about physical endurance playing hard and competing in sports as a kid, but it wasn’t until I was 10 years old when my Great-Grandmother died and I first saw my Dad in tears, which was a little bit of jolt for me.
But it was after becoming a husband and father, on Memorial Day weekend 1992 before my world was ever really turned upside down when my 5-year old daughter was in a life-threatening horse accident. As you might guess, the following days, weeks, and months tested her mom and me in ways we could not have imagined. But many of you have faced similar challenges…
So what do you need when your way of life, your identity, your security, something you hold near and dear is threatened and there are no fast answers or solutions?
Here are three keys to help you respond with endurance when life brings great stress:
1) Look at the Big Picture – Reflect on the whole; Life’s trials and struggles are inevitable, but there is a saying, “This too shall pass.” The challenge before you is a part of the bigger whole. Do your best to keep things in perspective.
2) Remember the Goal – Remember your purpose; most people can endure great difficulty if they believe their sacrifices or struggles are part of a greater purpose. However, regardless of your goals, some shake-ups and trials are so big, we have to dig deep to call on our purpose in life. If your faith, worldview, or belief system is uncertain, life’s storms are more difficult. If your foundation is shaky, it’s difficult to stay upright in hard times. Being well-grounded is important. Reflect on your purpose.
3) Renew Yourself – Rest and recharge; it has been said “Fatigue makes a coward of us all.” Avoid “burnout” by seeking rest and balance in your life.
The endurance to withstand stress is built through the personal development of four key dimensions – the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual domains of your life. Developing all four of these dimensions in your life – in balance – will produce strength and energy that will help you to be at your best and withstand the inevitable stress that life brings.
It’s not a question of IF you will encounter hardship and distress…just a matter of when and how much. The stronger you are mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually—the better you can handle difficulty when it comes.
To finish our family story, my daughter survived and thrived… she got married last summer…her physical scars have faded…they look much different on her 29-year old face than they did when she was 5…some people don’t even notice them.
And she would tell you today that she wouldn’t change a thing in her life. She is much stronger today – mentally, spiritually, emotionally – as a result of her accident and the physical and emotional scars that came with it.
It’s our reaction to life’s testing storms, our perseverance and endurance that form us, grow us, and ultimately make us who we are, who we’re meant to be.
Winston Churchill had been Prime Minister just over one month when he gave one of his most important speeches ever. In June of 1940, Churchill knew that Great Britain lay directly in the path of Hitler’s aggression and the “Battle of Britain” was about to begin. As he stood before the House of Commons in Parliament, the Prime Minster spoke the following now-famous words:
…But if we fail, then the whole world including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour!”
What matters is what we do in the face of our difficulties. Do we fight through, or give up? Each of us has a purpose and a reason. You have a unique purpose and reason for being here. Renew yourself in that purpose every day. When life’s storms come your way, look at the big picture and remember your purpose, your goals, your reason. Live your life and fight through the challenges you face. Serve others, and let those who know you best, who know of your own personal battles and how you face them, speak of you by saying, “This was your finest hour.”