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Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 11th October 2020.

A few thoughts today on ‘Perseverance’.

Perseverance means, basically, not giving up until you have achieved your goal. For example, Thomas Edison made a successful alkaline battery, but only after 10,000 failed experiments. And here’s a Chinese proverb to reflect on: the man who moved the mountain did so by carrying away small stones.

We may be totally fed up with the Covid pandemic, and all the Government restrictions, but we just have to keep going until we have seen it through. There isn’t really a choice but to persevere. But there are times when perseverance is a choice we have to make.

Perhaps the first thing to say about perseverance is that we will never achieve a target, unless we have a target to aim at. And someone once said that perseverance is not a long race, but several small ones. We may have several consecutive aims: having completed one, we move on to the next; or we many have several aims running in parallel.

Perseverance is not easy. It can involve hard work and sacrifice, and requires that we have confidence in ourselves – and it can make a difference if we have confidence in God. And if an aim is worth achieving, then it worth persevering for it.

Perhaps the best-known Old Testament example of perseverance is the story of Job, which is thought to be one of the oldest stories in the Bible, from about 2000BC. The Book of Job tells the story of how God allowed Satan to inflict Job with suffering and loss. Job was a wealthy farmer with a large family, but Satan caused Job extreme physical suffering and the loss of his wealth and members of his family. Job at first began to question why God would allow him – a good man – to suffer so much. His suffering wasn’t helped by four ‘friends’, who suggested he was probably responsible for his own sufferings by reason of some sin they did not know about. But nevertheless Job still persevered through his illness and praised God: “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return: the Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” I expect most of you reading this will have heard words like those repeated by a priest leading a coffin into church at a funeral. Job put his trust in God and persevered through his suffering, and eventually God restored Job’s health, possessions and family, giving him ten more children.

The moral of the story is that suffering is not a sign of sin, and that relief from suffering is a gift from God. Suffering can often be something that makes us stronger and draws us closer to God. And we should note how much God rewarded Job for his perseverance.

Persevering through difficult times, such as the current pandemic, can be very challenging. But we can still learn something from adversity. The pandemic has been devastating for millions of people. It has had a severe impact on our lives. But we have learned lessons. We have learned what works and what does not work in dealing with the pandemic. Medical science has developed new skills. And people have been talking to and helping neighbours they never spoke to before. The pandemic affects rich and poor and all ethnicities. We have learned that if we are all in the same boat, then we have a shared responsibility to keep it

going in order to get through this crisis and eventually be restored to ‘normality’, whatever the new normality may be. And we need the faith to know we will get there in the end.

The last two verses of Psalm 42 remind us that, when things appear to be going badly for us, we should not be despondent but, like Job, put our trust in God:

‘Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?
and why are you so disquieted within me?
O put your trust in God;
for I will yet give him thanks,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

If we place our trust in God and rely on him to guide us in all we do, then it will help us and give us the strength to persevere through adversity. I am reminded of the last verse of the hymn, ‘Jesus, good above all other’:

Lord, in all our doings guide us;
pride and hate shall ne’er divide us;
we’ll go on with thee beside us,
and with joy we’ll persevere.

Fr. Ray