Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. --Hebrews 12:1
What promises do you make to a man trapped under a crane? To a patient who's been told they have cancer? A farmer whose farm is at risk? "When will God show up?" some of them ask. "What if He doesn't?" they continue, eyes pleading for reassurance or guarantees.
What do you say to a worker whose home has been taken? To the man who just lost his company? To the woman who just lost her job? To a parent whose child is fighting for their life? "Why didn't God show up?" some of them ask. "What was He thinking!" others cry out.
We hear a lot of talk in the body of Christ about victorious living. Christians are taught the myth, on one end of the spectrum, that God wants them to be wealthy, healthy and happy. On the other end of the spectrum, however, Christians are also taught they're supposed to find a way to be happy in the midst of trial; to celebrate in the middle of turmoil. This, too, is a myth.
These teachings are incredibly hurtful to Christians struggling to plant one foot in front of the other. Prosperity gospels make Christians who are poor or hurting think there's something wrong with their faith, or that God is less satisfied with their efforts. Grin-and-bear-it gospels add false guilt to already worn-down believers, leading them to think God is disappointed they can't suck it up and smile in the face of adversity.
These false gospels cause people to lose hope, often when hope is all they have left. Neither God nor Jesus ever promises this life will be without trial; and neither ever teaches a grin-and-bear-it mantra.
This is what Scripture teaches: Perseverance and endurance.
Perseverance is easily translated: Hold on! It is an action solely reliant on the strength of the person facing the circumstances. Endurance, on the other hand, addresses the energy or resources it takes to persevere, and endurance is not solely reliant on the person facing the trial. This truth opens the door for us to participate in the battles others face.
When Paul challenges us to be content or James tells us to count it joy, they're talking about the quality of our trust in the Father's ultimate promises, not immediate release or relief. Even the oft-quoted and abused Jeremiah passage ("I know the plans I have for you---") were promises it would take another seventy years to keep, long after many of the hearers were gone.
We are to trust in the eternal promises God makes; that one day of pain endured here pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of days we'll have in the place where pain and sorrow are no more.
The psalms of David teach us it's okay to cry out in our distress; God expects us to be human. What He asks of us is perseverance; enduring the pain and trial while He works His will for Creation; a will that sometimes asks of us more than we think we can bear as we trust He will one day answer all our doubts and fears and questions. In the meantime...
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ----Hebrews 12:2-3