Chaplain's Corner: Perseverence
“A time of trial is beneficial to everyone: the diligent are tried so that their wealth may increase; the lax, so that they may be preserved from harm; those spiritually asleep, so that they may prepare themselves for watchfulness; those whose who are far from God, so that they approach Him; those who are God’s close associates, so that they may come closer to Him. . . .” St. Isaac the Syrian
Thomas Alva Edison once said: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”[i] It appears that many individuals in the world want success, but few want to persevere in the actions it takes to achieve their success. Unfortunately, some think success will occur simply by the desire for it. However, examining the lives of anyone who has achieved success actually shows that it takes great perseverance and endurance, and the withstanding and overcoming of obstacles and difficulties. Furthermore, people who are really successful are never satisfied with the level they have already attained, but persevere to achieve greater perfection.
This insight was certainly not lost on religious leaders. For example, The Koran point out: “God is with those who persevere.”[ii] But there is a caveat told to us by God. The prophet Isaiah (11: 2) tells us: “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might [courage-perseverance], the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” Notice that perseverance is preceded by wisdom and followed by knowledge. St. Paul gives us an insight into the kind of wisdom and knowledge we need to have that will point us toward the appropriate goal of our endeavors: “For the love of money is the root of all evils; . . . . But as for you, man of God, shun all this; aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” (1Tim 6: 10-11). The effects of ignoring the inspired counsel of St. Paul are well attested to by the corporate and banking scandals that have recently plagued the United States and world economies. At the very least, it behooves those who are seeking worldly success to do so in a Godly, righteous manner. This is succinctly summarized in a Buddhist aphorism: “If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.”[iii]
Our Eastern Church Father, St. Isaac the Syrian (Brock, 1997), gives us an understanding of what perseverance is for the Christian: “A time of trial is beneficial to everyone: the diligent are tried so that their wealth may increase; the lax, so that they may be preserved from harm; those spiritually asleep, so that they may prepare themselves for watchfulness; those whose who are far from God, so that they approach Him; those who are God’s close associates, so that they may come closer to Him. . . .” St. Paul tells the Romans (15: 5-7) that this goal is to persevere in interiorizing God’s Love: “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
Brock, S. (1997). The Wisdom of St. Isaac the Syrian. Fairacres Oxford, England: SLG Press.