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Christian Counseling: Endurance: An Asset Or Liability Of Character?

A competitor who completes, let alone wins, an ironman triathlon is a marvelous example of human endurance. Scripturally, we have the perfect example of endurance in Jesus who gave up His power and position to enter our world in human form and take the rejection, humiliation, torture and extremely painful death without calling on the Father or the angels to save Him.

There are circumstances in which we have no choice but to endure and others in which we choose to do so. The desire to avoid pain and be more than a survivor seems inherent, but we can override that most powerful desire in favor of a greater cause or reason, just as Jesus did. We are called to be suffering servants like Him. So it can get confusing when we have to discern between endurance that is righteous or useless and a characteristic to develop or a liability to avoid. 

Those who play the martyr role receive esteem from others or oneself for their visible suffering. This also has the advantage of reducing other's criticisms and falsely diminishing or ending feelings of guilt. Their endurance of suffering is ostensibly righteous, but has no value beyond temporary self-gain.

For centuries, Christian women have been told to unconditionally submit to their husbands and those in authority. They endured numerous hardships and even emotional and physical abuse from their husbands because they were told that absolute submission was the woman's righteous response that would please God and bring her husband into obedience to the Word (1 Peter 3:1,2). This belief continued to be taught to most women seeking counseling from their pastors in the 1980's and still ocassionally exists today. An equivalent belief would be, if we just loved Muslim extremists they would end jihad against American infidels and become our brothers and sisters. These and others situations demand an action other than endurance, for there are those who will not be moved by love, kindness, submissiveness, or God Himself (Romans 1:28-32), but will take advantage of what they perceive as weakness, fear or ignorance.

Endurance is a liability and must end when goodness has no effect and evil rules the heart of an individual. In these circumstances, submission and endurance is understood as enabling the tyrrany of others.

What are you enduring? Why? Are you able to determine if your endurance is an assest or liability of character? What other response might God approve of?

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