REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of June 13, 2021
Endure Hardships with Patience: 1 Peter 2:20-21; Matt. 5:10
We are in Week 19 of our examination of Benedict of Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. This week we’ll look at Rule 4.33: Endure Hardships with Patience. For obvious reasons, this is not the most popular topic for discussion. But whether we like it or not, there will be conflict between us and the world. Satan and the world oppose Christ and his kingdom. Therefore, if we are truly fully devoted followers of Christ, we must expect to be opposed and persecuted by the world. But how do we endure such persecution or hardship with patience? To do so goes against all our natural inclinations. By nature, we want to defend ourselves and our rights. Let’s look at some practical ways we can open our hearts to the work of the Holy Spirit to transform our attitudes towards difficulty.
- Remember the ability to endure is a gift of God’s grace. Sometimes we get under the misconception that our spiritual transformation is all about us. If we just work hard enough, we can become what God has called us to be. In other words, we live as if the cross was good enough for our salvation, but we’re capable of handling the rest. But nothing could be farther from the truth. In 1 Cor. 1:26-29, Paul reminds us that God is glorified in our weakness because then only he gets the credit. Though we have the responsibility to abide in Christ and open our hearts to the transforming work of the gospel, it is God’s grace that does the transforming, not us. That’s why our patient enduring is described as a “gracious thing” in 1 Peter 2:20—God looks at it as a gracious thing because it is a product of his grace.
- Remember your calling. I am as guilty of this as anyone: I like verses that say, “Come unto me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest,” or “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” or “my God will supply all your need.” But I’m not such a fan of when Christ says, “take up your cross and follow me.” Those first verses are precious promises of God for sure. They are verses that should bring us comfort. However, they do not negate the calling of Jesus to follow him into difficulty, because it is in difficulty that we really encounter the comfort and love of God. It is in difficulty and sorrow that we begin to comprehend in some measure what Jesus endured for us. It is in difficulty and pain, when we have nowhere else to turn, that we turn to the one place where rest can be found—the foot of the cross. That’s why I love this line from the prayer known as the Anima Christi, “May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.”
- Remember your destination. I must confess that I am so easily distracted by temporal things. As a father, I never cease to be amazed at the number of things that were SO important to my children, that they just couldn’t live without, that wind up in our trash can or a donation box. I often wonder if God doesn’t view us much the same way. Our prayers are consumed with temporal concerns, while things of eternal importance pass with nary a thought. While God doesn’t cause our pain, he does take that difficulty and uses it for our good and his glory. He does use those things to refocus our attention on those things that really matter—those things that are eternal.
- Consider for a moment some of the difficulties you have faced in life. What did God teach you in those moments? How did you feel God’s love through that experience?
- When you face difficulty or pain, what is your first response? Do you feel like God is punishing you? Do you feel as if God has abandoned you? Where do go for comfort in those moments?
- How does focusing on eternity help us in difficult circumstances?
- Consider the line from the Anima Christi quoted above. What does it look like to shelter in the shadow of the cross? How does this differ from the advice we get from the world?