Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to practice what I so often preach by putting my patience and perseverance into action. I was on my way to Camp Blanding, where I was scheduled to talk to nearly two hundred cadets. I was driving my husband’s truck, packed with luggage and water-ski equipment, and I was pulling a boat. About an hour from my destination, the truck quit. Fortunately, my husband, not too far away, was able to come to my rescue, but still…there I sat, with my plans set awry and places I needed to be.
Sitting in that hot truck, I had a choice to make. I could throw a fit and blame my husband for giving me his old truck to drive—or I could stay at peace by trusting the God of peace. I could remain patient, knowing that help was on the way; I could persevere with a heart of joy to the place God was sending me. Even if His time was not the same as my time.
Though tempted, I knew that being angry and frustrated wouldn’t solve my problem. So instead, I chose to look for the positives and be thankful for them. Was I thankful for a broken-down vehicle? Well, not quite. But I was thankful that I was at a fast food restaurant when the truck died. (Hey, I had food and a bathroom—what more could a girl need?) I was thankful that I was in a safe location not too far from home. I was thankful for a few precious moments to just sit and rest; I’d been going nonstop for weeks. And finally, I was thankful for the homeless man who approached my vehicle and prayed for me.
There’s always something to be thankful for, no matter where we are or what has happened. I learned this from my friend, Matt Manzari. Although severely electrocuted, Matt still finds things to praise God for every day; and in the midst of his praise, he finds the strength and joy to move on, even while experiencing great physical pain and loss. A grateful attitude helps us maintain our peace and patience and gives us the strength to persevere, whether we are broken down on the side of the road, recovering from a tragic accident, or reeling from a sudden change in circumstance or relationship.
While I was waiting in that broken-down truck, I texted Mrs. Linda, our prison correspondence director, to say I would be late arriving. She responded with a heartfelt, “I’m sorry you are dealing with this delay.”
I attempted to reply: “We press on J” My phone, however, didn’t obey my instruction to insert a smiley face icon; instead, it typed, “We press on smiling.” I got ready to correct the mistake, but then I realized that my phone had actually typed a better phrase. It had typed the secret to perseverance: We must press on, smiling. It’s as simple as that.
We try to have perseverance till we’re blue in the face, but if we have no joy in our hearts, our pressing on is in vain. It’s our joy, our laughter, our attitude of gratitude, and our level of peace and patience that attracts others to the God of hope who lives within us. Are you pressing on, smiling? It’s not easy, but with God, it can be done.
Written by Kristi Overton Johnson
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo