Persevering Toward Hope

the role of Intellectual, Emotional, and Spiritual Quotients in developing Grit & Hope in times of trial  

Grit has become a buzz word following the publication of Angela Duckworth’s 2016 best-selling book. The concept of grit shifted our understanding of perseverance from an outcome to a predictor of achievement. The relatively recent research conducted by Duckworth  (2007) demonstrates that perseverance (grit) drives achievement more than talent, test scores, or conscientiousness and is highly correlated with intelligence. However, perseverance has been a predictor of positive outcomes for people of faith for thousands of years. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Romans, he encouraged the church saying:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.
(Romans 5:3-4)

The Sunset over the mountains surrounding Karawaci, Tangerang, Indonesia

In my adult life, not many years have provided enough suffering to challenge my grit (my personal level of perseverance) like 2020 and the beginning of 2021 have. I moved with my family to Indonesia in January of 2020 as a Fulbright Scholar. We found ourselves far from home during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as we started to get acclimated to life abroad – learning, working, and living in a country far from the norms of the US – the Fulbright program was globally suspended. We found ourselves booked on flights to return home 4 months earlier than planned. As we traveled back to the US through Japan, we walked through empty airports with closed restaurants feeling the surreal reality of a world enduring a pandemic. Upon our re-entry to the US, we quarantined and bunkered down at home to continue teaching and learning on Indonesian time. After quarantine, we sheltered in place, social distanced, and infrequently emerged from our home to make grocery runs and mostly to go on walks. My two kids started classes at 8 pm every evening (8 am in Indonesia), finishing their classes between midnight and 3 am.

Compared to Asia, day to day life around us in the US seemed to be much less affected by COVID-19. Gone were our daily temperature checks entering our apartment building, schools, stores, and restaurants. People chose to wear or not wear masks. The US news was much more inconsistent, confusing with information changing frequently. At a time where science, data, and valid information would have normally directed the intellect and logic of the pandemic, emotions seemed to rule the day. Loneliness, fear, grief, anxiety, suspicion, and sadness pervaded.

It was during this season that I connected with FT Chong, an investment banker in New York City. The pandemic had moved him to think more deeply about the role of faith and spirituality in facing the world around us and in overcoming challenges in business. We launched a podcast in May of 2020 called Integrate: Faith & Innovate ( Over the past 6 months, we have interviewed CEOs and thought leaders who integrate faith into their day-to-day decision making as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has been established that intelligence is an important driver of an individual’s achievements and that it is highly correlated with grit (intelligence and perseverance go hand in hand). Recent years have also seen the emergence of emotional intelligence as an important facet of leadership and success in business. However, both of these quotients seemed to run amok during the COVID-19 pandemic. Distrust of information ruled out logical conclusions for many regarding COVID-19 and emotions seemed to run high both at home and in the workplace – a concept of place that merged into one location as many people worked from home. 2020 saw large scale loss of lives, unrest on the rise, protests, and riots, all leading up to an attack on the US capital building. The capital was not attacked by terrorists but by  US citizens as we turned the corner into 2021.

The secret to perseverance seemed to hinge on something bigger than intellect and emotion. I have the privilege to work with highly educated people with PhDs and to worship with people who are smart and successful. They all held very different conclusions and views with a wide range of emotional states. Conversations ranged from emphatic anger to quieter depression and loneliness. I found myself reacting more emotionally than I would normally, uncertain of what to think on many occasions in 2020.

Persevering to achieve goals in 2020 and now in 2021 must hinge on something deeper than intelligence and emotional awareness. In our conversations, FT introduced the idea of a spiritual quotient. A step deeper then IQ or EQ, a spiritual quotient would measure the level of faith or spiritual practices that transform our lived realities and provide us with an opportunity for faith. An opportunity to have faith and persevere when we cannot understand intellectually or emotionally the world around us.

IQ – Intelligence Quotient:
the measure of someone’s intelligence found from special tests, proficiency in or knowledge of a specific subject. *

EQ – Emotional Quotient:
the measure of someone’s emotional intelligence – their ability to understand their own feelings and the feelings of others. *

SQ – Spiritual Quotient:
the measure to which a person embodies the priorities, commitments, and perspectives characteristic of vibrant and life-transforming faith or spiritual practices. **

Beyond knowledge or feelings, SQ is rooted in two things: faith and peace. Back in the days of great suffering for people of faith in Rome, Paul encouraged the young church to persevere based on faith, peace, and grace (maybe the first measure of a spiritual quotient):

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.
And hope does not put us to shame,
because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,
who has been given to us.

Interestingly, character refers to more than moral principles or virtue to include intellectual or mental qualities of an individual. Faith provides us the justification we need to be freed up for peace. In this state of faith, grace, and peace we can persevere through whatever suffering comes our way knowing that the outcome can be something truly supernatural, hope. I found this to be true in 2020 as I persevered in the quiet of my home, writing for four weeks beyond two weeks of quarantine as I finished writing a book manuscript that was due to my publisher in May. I found that persevering required buffering my faith, finding peace, and standing in grace. As I woke up every morning and entered my office to write, I found that my mind seemed sharper, my emotions more attuned to scripture and less attuned to the news. I emerged with a book and a renewed sense of hope.

If you have navigated 2020, and now 2021, at times on the verge of hopelessness as you face the realities of the world around us (as I’m sure many have), this is for you. There is an opportunity in Jesus Christ to be justified through faith, to walk in underserved, unexplainable peace. We can boast in a hope that intellectually or emotionally does not line up with the realities of a pandemic or the current political state of our nation.

Navigating suffering with faith and peace allows perseverance that seems to guarantee character will grow. Instead of devolving into argument, despair, or loneliness, intellectual, emotional, and moral qualities can be buffered and grown by shear grit – through perseverance. The opportunity to put faith and peace first, to focus on growing a spiritual quotient rather than intellect or emotion provides a path to hope.

So as you look to the future with hope, be ready to boast in all the good that God will do in 2021. Build up your faith. Cling to peace. Stand confident in grace as these practices not only provide the path to hope but also the opportunity to glory in suffering and to see miraculous breakthrough in ways that our intellect and emotions could never have anticipated. Here’s hoping for new achievements in 2021!!

* Cambridge Dictionary definitions ** Chang-Ho (2004) adaptation of Spiritual Maturity
also posted @

Share Post:

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email


Industries Throughout History: Why Does Wisdom Make Clothes?

Consider this, the Noble Woman in Proverbs 31:10-31 is arguably Lady Wisdom personified as an entrepreneur in the marketplace. This noble woman who makes history as the exemplification of wisdom has a profitable business in the textile industry. She manufactures and sells sashes and garments.

Read More »