I've stepped away from writing my weekly blog the last month or so. Admittedly, I've not been a mental head space which allowed me to write with clarity or purpose, and my desire to write about anything fitness related has disappeared entirely. Though many have not likely noted this absence, it has brought a lot of time to think, reflect, and grow.
To be frank, the last seven months have been a particular challenge for me. I was lamenting to a friend recently how it felt like God has been swinging a hammer, and I have been a nail. At this point, a week where nothing bad happens is deemed a good week in my book. I'll spare the details and list of events, as they'd be boring to some, and to others they'd seem as if they were miniscule things not worthy of fretting over (more thoughts on this will come at a future time). In any regard, those times have brought about deep challenges, much of which has been extremely hard to see the light in.
I grew up in the church, and I still choose to hold faith in Jesus, but there's a verse which always seems to get pushed in the face of those who struggle as if it's some encouragement:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." -James 1:2-3 (NIV).
This is usually where people stop, which I'll admit I find to be completely unhelpful or useless. Especially when you are in a state where nothing seems to go right, it seems like you're being told to suffer just because you're supposed to. Yes, perseverance is a good quality to have and is useful, but to those who just can't seem to get a break this verse seems like a slap in the face. It is simply (to steal the words from poet Joshua Bennett) "a guillotine draped in good intentions," making you question the suffering even deeper.
After all, how long must hardship go on to develop perseverance? How long do your trials have to continue in order for them to manifest into some level of stoicism and strength? These are questions those who struggle ask, and for each of them the answer is different. There are those whose trials last for years. Those whose are only brief and intense. Regardless, most will tell you it feels like quite some time. And to tell someone to persevere simply because they're supposed to is often not very helpful. What good is perseverance if there's nothing left of you at the end?
Recently, however, someone older and wiser added the latter half of that section of verses:
"Let perseverance finish it's work so that you may be mature, and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:4 (NIV)
I can't really put a finger to it, but this stuck out to me, and has been helpful. Perhaps because it puts some meaning to perseverance and what it may ultimately lead to. Perhaps it puts into perspective of how the suffering ceases to be when you grow old enough and wise enough to frame it for the learning lesson it is. Perhaps, because maturity and wisdom often go hand-in-hand, lending itself to decision making in the future.
Whatever it may be, these lines of thought have brought me back to the beginning of Littauer Strength Training, and the basis for which it has been built over the last three years: The Future Is Stronger.
Something I've been reminded of recently is how in building a stronger future, one must choose to seek learning opportunities. We must seek to grow from hardship, and examine our experiences as a trial to grow from. To use our struggles from today to inform how we act tomorrow, and the days which follow. Each of these things will compound, and make the future stronger.
You see it's not just about perseverance, but the product of holding on to perseverance. Perseverance in and of itself is somewhat obsolete if we do not choose to learn and grow from it. Persevering through some kind of suffering without any effort to grow and mature from it is meaningless. Yes, we can choose to suffer as one may do in the gym (though I don't know if the gym can really count as suffering), but it is only through seeking to mature and grow wiser in which perseverance does its magic. Where perseverance completes our faith and our striving to continue. Where we can grow and make each day stronger.
If you're in a challenging time, I'd implore you to keep going, and find what perseverance is trying to teach you. Seek to learn from it. Examine it. It may not make the challenge any less painful. It may not make it go away immediately. But by embracing the outcome of perseverance, the maturity and wisdom, even before it is complete you may find the ability to keep going. And when you keep going, the Future Becomes Stronger once again.