This photo of my son Patrick and husband David was taken at Patrick’s conference swim meet last week. Their smiles came in the wake of some personal triumphs for Patrick . . . victories that were hard won by persevering with Lord.
The conference swim meet is the “holy grail” for the Varsity Swim Team at Pfeiffer University. Swimmers work hard all season, aiming to reach the pinnacle of their preparation and performance for the conference meet in mid-February. Patrick had trained and competed for six months, and he was right on schedule to put in some of his best swim times during the conference meet . . . until he got the flu.
Fever, chills, aches and pains, exhaustion, breathing difficulties . . . the entire gamut hit him about 2 weeks before the meet. He missed a week of his classes and swim practices. When he finally got back in the pool, he felt weak, and he struggled being able to breathe during his laps. His doctors told him he would not feel 100 percent healthy for two full weeks after the flu, a schedule which took him well beyond the dates of the conference meet.
“Mom, I’m nervous about the conference meet,” he told me early in the week. “I can’t catch my breath in the pool, and I am so tired. I really want to do well at conference, and I’m trying. I’m just concerned I won’t get the results I hoped for. Will you pray for me?”
“Of course!” I told him, “and I will ask lots of others to pray too. I know God is going to help you, and Patrick, your story has always been about perseverance, so keep persevering now.”
Diagnosed with autism at age 5, Patrick has faced many challenges in his lifetime: the inability to speak and understand language, severe coordination issues, difficulty in interpreting the input from all of his senses, social struggles, and educational issues. Yet, I noticed something powerful in the midst of all the stresses and strains in his life—that young man refused to give up! He kept going, trying, and persevering . . . and the Lord did some amazing work in the process.
The same trend held true at the conference swim meet. Patrick swam his personal best in the 1000 yard freestyle event, cutting 29 seconds off his best time. He did the same in his 500 yard freestyle swim, cutting 14 seconds off his best time. He swam hard, and when he saw his results on the scoreboard, a huge smile exploded across his face. I know the Lord was smiling too. That’s because once again, Patrick swam his race relying on the Lord and expecting Him to show up. And He did.
We, too, can persevere with the help of:
Patrick’s favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:13, NASB, which says, “I can do all things through Him [Christ] who strengthens me.” Patrick works hard, and then he leaves the rest to God. He allows the Lord to work through him in his struggles so others can see the Lord at work. He’s a perfect example of 2 Corinthians 4:7, NASB: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.”
In our book “Optimism for Autism,” Patrick wrote, “I do not think we should ever give up if God asks us to do something, because He is the One who does it anyway! He can do anything He wants to because He’s God!”
When we are in a tough spot, that’s where we can encounter the Lord as never before. When the Israelites were trudging through the dangerous desert, the Lord promised them, “My presence shall go with you” (Exodus 33:14, NASB). When Joshua stood on the edge of the promised land ready to wage war, the Lord reassured him, “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, NIV).
Patrick has shared with me how he has felt the Lord’s presence with him as he has faced his various challenges. The Lord’s presence energizes us to keep moving forward . . . with Him.
When I told Patrick that family members, friends, and members of my Sunday School class and Ladies Bible Study group were praying for him in the midst of his conference challenges, his face lit up. I could see the joy, hope, and peace that displayed itself in his countenance. Patrick believes in the power of prayer, and he exhibits a humble gratitude every time I tell him about others who are praying for him.
We all need each other. We have a great privilege, responsibility, and blessing in praying for one another. We are called to “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2, NIV), and to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV). When we come alongside one another in the midst of our struggles, we are blessed.
Last week marked the completion of Patrick’s junior year of collegiate swimming. I know he will continue to teach me and others about persevering with the Lord in the seasons to come.
Question: What examples of perseverance has the Lord shown you? Comment at the link below.
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Susan Jane King