Forty years ago, as the violence in Vietnam rained down on his village, an explosion killed Ho Van Thanh’s wife and two of his children. In fear and desperation, Thanh scooped up his infant son, Ho Van Lang, and fled into the jungle. For 4 decades, father and son lived far from civilization, carving a rudimentary life out of the land. Recently, villagers exploring some 25 miles from their homes happened upon the two. Thanh, now 82, was very ill, and the villagers reached out to help him.
Just think, for all those years Thanh and his son had endured a difficult existence—trying to escape the horror they’d left behind.
James has much to say about patience and endurance based in hope, not fear. In the span of just five verses (James 5:7-11), he uses the words patience, wait (or look), and endurance several times. He implores his readers to “be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return” (James 5:7). He notes that a farmer works the soil and plants seed in the dirt, and then has to wait for the rain and the sun to do its work. So, James instructed, God’s people must wait and rely on God: “[We], too, must be patient” (James 5:8).
The concept of endurance isn’t exciting. To endure means to keep going. It’s to stay true to our commitment and not give up. To endure, in James’ vocabulary, is to give ourselves to patience. When we endure, we follow the example of the Old Testament prophets who waited (and died while waiting) for the promised Messiah. We follow the example of Job, “a man of great endurance” who suffered much hardship while waiting on God to act (James 5:10-11).
How can we endure even the long and difficult stretches? We endure because we know that God will act.
by Winn Collier