The word fortitude is tossed about so casually that I wonder if it really means what people think it means. The epistles teach us that we need to approach our discipleship with fortitude. They are not referring to a mere stubbornness or a spoken intent to consistently associate oneself with Christ or an ideal. Fortitude requires courage, loyalty, determination, dedication, and endurance to remain steadfast in the difficult and painful circumstance we find ourselves in. It is the willingness to participate fully in the vocation of Christian discipleship as a slave or bond servant. Like our Savior who was equip fully by the duality of His very essence and existence He set the standard for Christian fortitude; as way in which we submit and yield our own desire and ease for the way of the Cross.
Now endurance is another term that has been so secularized that it has lost its intent also. Endurance speaks to the very core, constitution or construct of a person, not “willingness” necessarily, to push through and to bear hardship. It refers in many ways to the tolerance for prolonged exertion pain and hardship. It refers to the ability of the individual to survive despite the personal cost or liability. It is the manner in which one accepts and manages the ravages of commitment and circumstance. This acceptance to endure what must occur is also demonstrated by our Lord on His way to Golgotha. The Via Dolorosa is a perfect and whole example of how we must endure every humiliation every trial every pain and get up even when we fall. I would also humbly point out that it must have pained our Lord perhaps even more so, to endure when He accepted the confines of flesh during the Incarnation.
Stamina describes a type of strength, energy or resistance to discomfort. By increasing one’s tolerance and stamina you raise the threshold before you become fatigued exerted or experience discomfort. Unlike endurance, stamina refers to an abiding aptitude and energy an enduring persistence or talent. WE can increase our talents by increasing stamina. This innate tolerance and regeneration is what creates the ease and grace in which some can do extraordinary feats. There is a perpetual and simultaneous rejuvenation for those who are endowed with a healthy generous dose of stamina. We can improve and capitalize on our stamina with effort and consistency which is character building. The building of our character improves endurance and fortitude. Refer yet again to our Lord and Savior who was arguably endowed by the duality and perfect synergy of His two natures to have the greatest ‘amount’ of innate ability and stamina but He still sweat blood on the eve of His arrest and prayed for His disciples and all who believe. Our Lord demonstrated perfectly the synergy of stamina, fortitude and endurance to tolerate prolonged hardship, pain, disappointment, temptation and torture whether in the desert or on the cross for us all.
On the road to salvation there is an inseparable integration of these three phenomena. They are inseparable because of the interplay and interdependence of one with the other. They should not be conflated or confused and I pray I haven't done so here because of my own lacking and ignorance. We are each given a talent an amount and it varies that can be equated with stamina but we are all called to increase our talent and not to bury or squander it. While studying Karate one of my sensei’s would say “Hard work beats talent when talent quits working hard”. I think it speaks well to this point. When building one’s increase it is uncomfortable and takes ‘sweat equity’ or labor. When we stretch beyond our former limits we establish new thresholds new horizons and create a more complete reality for ourselves. Our ability to mitigate strife and difficulty improves and therefore our endurance is elongated and extended. These positive outcomes often are the very stepping stones which were once stumbling blocks. They influence our thinking, feeling and belief. Our fortitude is thereby exponentially increased.
Orthodoxy, correct living, in this context is a pragmatic extension of the lessons of Saint Paul that we are essentially and in reality forging our salvation despite our iniquity but in the furnace of purification. It is a furnace the climate and environment is not hospitable. We may lament our turmoil the injustice the shame but we move forward amputating or pruning what is not useful or hurtful and making room in our lives for the blessings and holiness of God. Our Lord in Chapter 17 of the Gospel According to John states that he does not wish us to be taken out of the world but that we should be kept from evil. We are here to work out our salvation move through our journey in this life time. Remember also that we are already in eternity.