Stubbornness vs. Perseverance


Perseverance is an admirable character trait. Stubbornness is not.

The problem is that for those who would set themselves up as judge and jury, they are hard to tell apart. Much depends upon motive. One person pursues excellence in a field because God has placed a dream in his or her heart. Others strive to be the best because they believe their accomplishment will finally gain them the respect and attention they deserve – or crave.

Sometimes we don’t even understand our own motives. It’s too scary to look deeply into our own hearts so we keep trudging on toward the illusive goal, never questioning whether the quest is a worthy one. Examination of our hearts means questioning core beliefs and sometimes confronting lies we have believed.

I remember taking a course on rearing teenagers. The instructor was actually helping us understand ourselves by asking us to look under the surface behaviours of our kids. He used the example of comforting a distraught girl who failed to make the cheerleading team. We were inclined to talk about perseverance, and trying again next year. He asked the girl what she felt the rewards of winning a spot would have been. She admitted her hopes of social acceptance based on beauty and talent were attached to being a cheerleader. Her core belief was that people who are not physically beautiful or athletically inclined were not as worthy of love and acceptance as those who had such attributes. What a handicap that lie can become! The time had come to confront it.

I realized one day that my own perseverance in service to others was actually a stubborn act of the will. I had hoped that God would be impressed with my efforts and recognize me in front of other people, showing them that they ought to love me too. I didn’t know I was already loved by God and that nothing I did could make him love me any more.

As for being loved by others, well, the truth will out eventually and they know when they are being used.  They also become users and the whole cycle rolls on. Giving out of genuine love and caring and giving out of a need to be needed are based on entirely different motives as well, and have entirely different outcomes.

The Holy Spirit is the one who can probe and ask questions that reveal false ideas we have picked up because he always has an “instead.” His love never ends and his patience is infinite. Sometimes he will use other gentle people or even not-so-gentle situations to bring us to a teachable moment, but it is the devil’s job to accuse without offering hope of change, not God’s. God doesn’t work that way. God never says “This is not the way,” without pointing out a better way – his way.

When the Holy Spirit gently asks, “So, how’s this workin’ for ya?” it’s because he is giving you the attention you need and crave. He is offering love and a better way that will, in the end, offer greater satisfaction than you ever imagined possible. Perseverance and patient endurance bring rewards that stubbornness and pride never can. And God knows the difference.

If you are pursuing something you feel strongly God has asked you to do and it’s not easy, it’s okay to rest, strengthen yourself in the Lord, and then keep going.

If you have been pursuing a goal based on a false belief, it’s okay to stop and change direction.

Everyone else looks at behaviour, but God looks at the heart.

Since we have been acquitted and made right through faith, we are able to experience true and lasting peace with God through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King.  Jesus leads us into a place of radical grace where we are able to celebrate the hope of experiencing God’s glory.  And that’s not all. We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance,  which shapes our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness.  And hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love.

(Romans 5:1-5 The Voice)




11 thoughts on “Stubbornness vs. Perseverance

  1. Thank you for this beautiful post.

    I think stubbornness is simply immature perseverance that the Father will mature over time through circumstances. It’s applying your gifting to serve the Father rather than yourself.


    1. I loved your blog on immature giftings. Would you care to post a link here?

      I wanted to go beyond that though and say that grace is also the freedom to say “I was wrong,” and to change direction. Metanoia… change… repentance (a word which, alas, carries a lot of silly baggage) means to be re-newed, redirected.

      Sometimes we doggedly follow a direction that is simply an immature understanding of who we are. But sometimes some of us have believed very dangerous repeated lies and stubbornness is more than immaturity that will gradually mature over time. Sometimes people stubbornly pursue a goal that is deadly and they need to know it is okay to stop. It is necessary to stop. Now. Today.

      There was a time when I believed that there was something about me that was so hopelessly displeasing to God it made good people want to do bad things around me. The path I was pursuing on a bright autumn day over twenty years ago involved making suicide plans. I truly believed my family would be better off without me and this was the noble thing to do. I was determined and brave.

      That’s when I saw a painting by an artist named Stephen Lyman in a gallery in Sandpoint, Idaho. It depicted a campfire on the edge of a cliff. The Lord spoke to me through it. It was as if he said, “I have prepared a place for you here right on the edge. You can stop here, sit with me, and I will help you turn around, or you can take one more step and never have the option of making another decision.”

      I stopped. I checked myself into the hospital and my journey towards healing and wholeness began.

      I want to say that sincere people can be sincerely deceived and carry shame that is not their own. Sometimes they need permission to admit weakness and to stop pursuing a wrong path so they can find out who the Father really is.

      God is love and in him there is no shadow of turning.

      The painting

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for sharing that beautiful testimony. Mine was pursuing my worth through my career which led me to take a job whose long hours led me to neglect my wife whose PND became clinical and she tried to commit suicide and was hospitalised. I was left at home alone with a new baby in a stressful job and I had a breakdown. It was only then that I realised the path that my workaholism had led me down. It was the beginning of my restoration.

        The post on immature giftings was here:


  2. Valerie Harris

    Amen. Authentic love & admiration repeatedly unreciprocated + history of betrayal from those closest + a theological misunderstanding of forgiveness + stubbornness that feels like hope = DIsaster waiting to happen. Praise God for His redemptive essence.


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