The Face of Endurance
Phyllis is amazing. Day after day she shows up for volunteer work. She cooks for people, visits them, cares for them. She's slowing down, a bit weaker. Chemotherapy takes its toll. But she keeps going.
Until recently, she regularly visited her friend, Edythe, in the nursing home. When Edythe died, Phyllis gave the eulogy. The next Sunday, Phyllis stood up in church and gave the deacon's prayer. On Monday, she was at the desk as a volunteer receptionist. A few days later she was collecting food for the food shelf. And she took the "Prime-Timers" on an outing.
Phyllis is dying, but she gives herself to others, determined that cancer will not define her. I watch and think, "I would have curled up in a little ball in my bed long ago."
Many people keep on. But there is something about Phyllis—her caring and compassion, her positive outlook. Her heart full of love. Her face radiant with peace. It comes from her trust in God, who is with her and will be with her in the time to come.
Phyllis embodies a beautiful New Testament Greek word: hupomone—to "stand fast," "bear up under," "endure." New Testament writers use hupomone to describe perseverance in faith under life's difficulties and trials. Hebrews' author, writing to a church under persecution, urges: "Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith . . ." (Heb. 12:1-2). The same letter speaks of "enduring a hard struggle with sufferings," and the need to "endure trials" as part of faith (Heb. 10:32, 36; 12:7). Other writers speak of endurance as a Christian virtue that grows out of faith (2 Pet. 1:6; 1 Tim. 6:11). The apostle Paul speaks of "patiently enduring suffering" (2 Cor. 1:6). He says that "love endures all things." "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:7).
Perseverance in the Christian life draws its power not from inner human strength, but from faith and hope in the God who upholds us no matter what we encounter in life. God is the one who "gives endurance" (Rom. 15:5).
I don't understand how Phyllis keeps on until I reflect on the fact that her spirit comes from the power of God at work within her.
To endure in life's adversities is possible by looking in faith to God who gives us the gifts we need. No matter how steep the climb, how large or small the task, how daunting the challenge, we can look to God for the strength to keep going with love that "endures all things."