I took a peek at the long-range forecast and I did not like I what I saw. The heat and humidity of summer is not budging. In fact, it may just be strengthening.
And that may just do me in.
By this time in the calendar year I am eager for a change of seasons. The vibrant green of spring has long since transitioned to the deep, forest green of late summer. The humidity levels are as high as they will ever be. The days are getting shorter, but the sun seems unrelenting.
I was confused as a child in school when the calendars would depict September as the month of going back to school amidst a backdrop of autumn-clad trees. What a fib. Autumn in the south doesn’t truly get started until much later. My mother, a teacher in Atlanta at the time, wouldn’t put up her autumn bulletin board until after Halloween.
What a travesty.
It’s a shame autumn can’t start earlier and last longer. Because as we know, fall is the most glorious of seasons—especially in our mountains. The crisp, cool air and the warm sunlight make me eager for football and marching bands, apple cider and the smell of smoke from a wood stove. Autumn is golden and evokes a euphoric, even sentimental, air. There is a magical, transcendent quality to fall and I yearn for its breathtaking beauty.
But not yet. And not anytime soon.
So, I will have to outlast the heat. I will have to outlast the discomfort. I will have to outlast summer’s last oppressive stand.
I have found that the word ‘outlast’ captures well the experience of being in realities that we feel trapped in. To outlast an illness and to outlast a tiresome work assignment points to a resilient spirit that will not give up. It means that the anxiety, discomfort and irritation that we feel—whether petty or profound—will not win the day. We will outlast it, come what may.
I am encouraged by those in scripture who had to outlast their circumstances. It gives me hope that I can do the same. I remember Joseph who outlasted a villainous woman and a long prison sentence. I think of Naomi who outlasted the grief that accompanied the loss of her husband and sons until she was able to begin a new season in her life. Nathan, God’s prophet, had to outlast the tension that came from knowing about King David’s affair and the murder that he plotted. Stephen, the great martyr of the faith, outlasted the terrible pain of his stoning, and the Father in Jesus’s famous parable had to outlast the season of separation from his youngest, prodigal son.
In each of our lives, we will experience setbacks, conflict and unimaginable terrors. I wish it were not so. But these moments all bring us to a point of discernment; a crossroads, as it were. When beset by these difficult seasons, we will either choose to weather them, or we will succumb to the pain and surrender the gift of life that God continues to give to us.
James 1:12 reads: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (NIV)
God wants us to outlast the trials that we experience for our trials are not the end. True, when we are in seasons of extended distress, we lose heart and cannot see beyond the pain that we are experiencing. Our church, then, can become a host of encouragers for one another so that we can see what we cannot yet grasp—that is, relief, promise, victory, hope. The refreshment of our souls may not come until eternity stretches out before us, but therein lies a truth that is made bedrock by the Gospel. Our lives—and what we can see—are not the end. Sometimes we must weather and outlast even our very lives. But with God’s strength we will do just that. Because God’s ultimate hope will win the day. It may be delayed, but it will not be defeated.