Is Stubbornness Ever a Virtue?

 

“Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are now far from my righteousness. I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed…” (Is 46:12-13)

We walked along the side of the road, Lilly trotting on the raised curb beside me. One of my many podcasts droned in my ears as I took advantage of the nice weather to get outside but still learn something new about the craft of writing. I wrapped Lilly’s leash around my hand and wrist to ensure that she couldn’t suddenly break free and take off for parts unknown.

Suddenly, my hand holding the leash flew backwards, and I jolted to a stop. I looked around to find the cause, but I knew. It wasn’t the first time – or even the thousandth time – that Lilly had decided to explore something in the opposite direction in which we had been going. I turned to face her, still holding the leash taut. She had dug her little paws into the ground and was straining her body in the opposite direction of me and her leash, giving me quite the side-eye.  The amount of force in her little 11-pound body was pretty amazing. We stood like this for a moment, a standoff between me and my stubborn dog. But we both knew how it would end. I let out some slack in the leash, and she trotted happily to a pile of dead leaves to sniff until her little nose was content.

Lilly’s stubbornness reminds me that I can be that way, too, especially if God is asking me to step out of my comfort zone. I dig in my figurative heals and refuge to budge. Often when God asks us to do something, we balk and try to run the other way. Or maybe we’re walking along with him just fine until something catches our attention, and we take a detour to explore that new thing that we just had to have. We can be stubborn creatures when we want our own way, even if what we want isn’t good for us. Sometimes even especially then.

Stubbornness can be a good thing when used correctly. You may be wondering how that could be because right now you’re thinking of a stubborn person who drives you crazy. Let me explain. When you know what you want and what God wants, stubbornness is a quality that will help you stick to your values and not give in to pressure from those around you. Those people may be well-intentioned, but only you and God know what he’s asking you to do.

God is gracious and patient. He will never force us to do something we don’t want to do. This is the interesting thing about free will. Even though God is in control, he still lets us make our own choices, sometimes to our own detriment. He waits for us to see that what he is asking is for our good, even if we can’t see it at the time. I’m so thankful for his patience and that he never leaves us, even in our stubbornness. He offers us a place of refuge when we turn back to him.

Dear Jesus, thank you for giving us free will to make our own choices and wisdom to make good ones. Even when we go our own way, you are still there, waiting patiently for us. Amen.

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