“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.” James 1:12
There I was driving along, half hypnotized by the steady flow of traffic. I glanced at the car ahead of me. The bumper sticker read, “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!” I chuckled. But then I thought: Could you really call yourself “tough” if you headed for the mall every time life went sour? As I drove, I pondered how to really finish that sentence, “When the going gets tough, the tough . . . do what?”
A quick Internet search on the phrase returned endless possibilities for completing the thought. Here are some of the wackiest endings: “When the going gets tough, the tough “go to Asia,” or, the tough “start knitting.” One even said, “The tough lighten up!”
All of these alternative endings are humorous in their own way. But, they also represent ways to deal with “tough going.” For example, shopping could symbolize immediate gratification. Racing off to Asia might mean you’re running away from the problem. Starting to knit is a picture of distracting yourself from the trouble at hand. And if you simply lighten up, or laugh it off—that’s kind of like denial.
I don’t think any of us would get very far in life if we repeatedly chose those responses to trouble. They all contradict the traditional ending to the phrase. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The tough hang in there; they persevere. James 1:12 says: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life.”
In the Greek language, the word perseverance is literally made up of two words. One means “to remain.” The other word means “under.” That tells us that perseverance is the ability to remain under the pressure of difficulty with a good spirit. As Christians, we have a responsibility to bear the stress until God accomplishes His purposes. This gives us the assurance that our suffering has meaning.
In fact, God intends that we, in time, will blossom under the pressure. That’s why James exhorts us to submit to the trial and let perseverance finish its job of sanctification. In James 1:4, the text tells us, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” And, check out Romans 5:1-21 where Paul says that perseverance produces character!
In addition to the blessings that God brings to us when we persevere, perseverance also allows others to see Christ at work in our lives. With the growing interest in spirituality today, people are watching us more than ever before. They are looking to see if there is anything of value in our walk with Jesus. Or, are we just like anyone else when the going gets tough? They want to know, would a Christian use a string of four-letter words if she lost the big sale? Would a Christian booze it up after a crazy stressful day at the office? What would it take for a Christian to throw in the towel on his marriage? When we invite God to help us through situations like these, He furnishes the power to persevere so that onlookers can see that our Jesus is worth being faithful to regardless of the stress.
The next time a problem comes up and you’re tempted to go shopping, gallivant off to Asia, or knit yourself into oblivion, remember: Since God has a purpose in your problem, it’s worth hanging in there! So, if you are a follower of Jesus, your bumper sticker announces, “When the going gets tough, the tough hang in there!”