Perseverance stands tall among the vital qualities that enable a life to succeed. Brains and charisma will take you a ways down the road. Character is critical. In everyone’s life, though, there comes a time when perseverance is most needed.
As I look back on my life, I would be hard pressed to name any more important quality for survival and thriving than perseverance. Through over 30 years in business, I have encountered every sort of twist and turn: economies going south, wars that affect business flow, disloyalties, unexpected competitors and my own bad decisions. Through almost 60 years of life, I have encountered unimaginable pain: the 7-year cancer battle and death of my daughter. Life is overwhelming at times. Perseverance sustains a person from one day to the next.
What are the ingredients that grow perseverance in a person? Why is one person still standing and another person crushed by adversity? Like a stools with three legs, I believe that three things are needed. Miss any one, and the stool crashes.
The first is Perseverance in Belief. I believe deeply that God is in control, and that He is on my side. I am aware that evidence abounds that suggests that God does not exist or is at least absent. Suffering and tragedy are undeniable. But I have found that grace and goodness and love are also undeniable. I have found that as I choose to believe that God is on my side, my eyes are opened to goodness in the midst of pain.
The second is Perseverance in Attitude. While belief is critical, our emotions and passions are strong. No person will always be upbeat and positive. Sadness and despair are powerful forces. We face these emotions. We acknowledge them and process them seeking to understand their source. We work to move forward in a healthy way. But like belief, we can choose to feed the positive. Optimism, joy, and happiness can be leaned into. We learn to discipline our emotions. By no means am I always successful at this. But if I win more often than I lose, my attitude begins to naturally incline toward the positive. This makes perseverance through hard times infinitely easier.
The third is Perseverance in Action. Belief and attitude are fundamental, but they are empty without action. The book of James in the Bible says, “faith without works is dead.” Sometimes the action is getting out of bed. Sometimes it is walking out the door or going to work one more day. The needed action may be a phone call or having the courage to do the next hard thing. Courage is a muscle that is strengthened through exercise. Action begets more action. Perseverance builds as we act and then act again.
We will all experience hard times. Many people are going through suffering that is beyond what I can fathom. I would never suggest that perseverance is easy – only that it is indispensable. In the crucible of suffering perseverance takes great courage. As Moses told the Israelites after 40 years of perseverance, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life.” (Deut 30:19)