Finland and “Sisu”

2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

SPA51928It turns out that today (12/6/17) is a very great day for Finns. Today is the celebration of 100 years of independence. I have Finnish heritage from my Mom’s side. Finland is cool. (No pun intended!) It is a tough and beautiful place, famous for the resilience of its people. In fact, resilience is really the core value of Finnish culture and this resilience is captured by the word “Sisu.” “Sisu” is a word for which there is no English comparison. Below is the best I’ve found in terms of a working English definition of “Sisu.” It comes from Finlandia University in Hancock, MI.

“Sisu is a unique Finnish concept. It is a Finnish term that can be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.

Sisu is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain that courage. It is a word that cannot be fully translated. It defines the Finnish people and their character.  It stands for the philosophy that what must be done will be done, regardless of cost.

Sisu is an inherent characteristic of the Finnish people. You might call it backbone, spunk, stamina, guts, or drive and perseverance.  It is a measure of integrity that surpasses the hardship and sees through to the end.

Sisu is the quality that lets them pick up, move on, and learn something from previous failures. It’s the hard-jawed integrity that makes them pay their war debts in full. In short, it’s the indomitable will that sets Finns apart and explains many of the incredible things they do.

Due to its cultural significance, Sisu is a common element of brand names in Finland. For example, there are Sisu brand cars (and Sisu armored vehicles), the icebreaker MS Sisu, and a brand of strong-tasting pastilles manufactured by Leaf. Mount Sisu is the name of a mountain first ascended by mountain climber Veikka Gustafsson in the Antarctic.”

That is just uber-cool stuff, eh? Had you ever heard of “Sisu?” Well, I don’t think the apostle Paul had either, but he captured it, I think, in far fewer words in this famous verse above. It’s always what we need. It’s often what we lack. It’s time to fight, finish, and keep for the One who did all this for us on the Cross.

May the Lord grant us some holy “Sisu” this Advent and Christmas as we face all that we have to face with the courage He gives us, the courage that Christ’s birth both represents and grants.

(And… Happy Birthday Finland!)


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