Resilience: Facing Your New Reality

Text: James 1:1-18

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” —James 1:12

“Resilience is accepting your new reality,” said Elizabeth Edwards. “Even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”

I thought much about the spirit of resilience as we ministered to folks in our community who were affected by tornadoes that struck down in Cleveland on Easter Sunday, shredding dozens of homes. As our team served those in an area thrashed by the storm, we saw many faces of resilience, including a man who survived with a broken pelvis, though his mobile home was ripped apart, and a woman in her nineties who came out unscathed despite having her roof impaled.

My heart was touched when an elderly woman picked two bright red flowers from a bush in her debris-riddled yard, to give to my wife and daughter. It was as if she had nothing else in this world to offer, but a few blossoming spring flowers that had survived the storm, and just wanted to bless someone. This is the face of resilience—looking around at what is left, and being determined to bless someone with what remains, no matter how little it may seem.

Resilience is in our DNA as created beings. We are built to weather storms. The virtue of being able to adapt to stressful life changes and “bounce back” from hardship is essential to our growth and progress. The Bible gives us many admonitions about pressing on in adversity (Philippians 3:13–15), overcoming hardship and temptation (Romans 12:21), and persevering in the face of trials (James 1:12). It also gives us countless examples of people who suffered greatly yet continued to pursue God’s plan for their lives. Proverbs 24:16 could be considered a motto for the resilient: “Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.”

In the ancient story of Job (held by scholars to be the oldest book in the Bible), we see a man who demonstrated great resilience in the face of tragedy, inexplicable loss, and incredible agony of soul and body. After losing everything, Job refused to curse the Lord or give up: “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22). Later, when his suffering intensified, Job’s wife counseled him to “curse God and die!” (Job 2:9), but Job never folded. I can imagine him picking some of those budding spring flowers in East Cleveland, holding them upward and declaring, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand in this place.” This man has become the poster child for perseverance throughout the ages.

Perhaps you find yourself in the center of a new reality right now, needing to adapt and adjust to what has pummeled your life. Resiliency is in your DNA. Embrace it. Let the words of Psalm 37:23–24 be your encouragement today: “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

Resilience is ours because of the Hand that upholds us. Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.

PRAYER

Father, change can be difficult, especially when it is accompanied by loss or defeat. You never promised us a life immune to hardship, but You have promised to uphold us that we will not stumble and fall when tornado-like trials come. Teach us the virtue of trusting Your heart. Holy Spirit, help us to live out our days with an anticipation of the redemption that is sure to come. We bless You with our worship and praise, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:

  1. Why would you agree or disagree with the statement, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to what happens to you”?
  2. What attitude did James tell people to exhibit when they are facing trials? (James 1:2)
  3. What is produced when our faith is tested, and what is God’s response when we ask for wisdom? (James 1:3-5)
  4. What good has ever come out of a difficult situation in your life? How does a person’s relationship with God change as he or she goes through trials and problems?
  5. In what specific areas do you need to ask God for His wisdom or resilience this week?

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Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

My hero is my mom. As a teenager, she became a mother of two and had to drop out of high school. My father left her when I was 6-months-old, leaving my 17-year-old mother the strenuous burden of caring for two toddlers all on her own. Still being a child herself, Mom had incredible giants in front of her. But she clawed her way through life and boldly faced her giants one by one, day by day, and week by week.

Continue reading “Mother’s Day Gift Ideas”

I Am David: The Resiliency of the Human Spirit

“I Am David” is a film adapted from Anne Holm’s internationally acclaimed novel North to Freedom and is one of my sentimental favorites.

It’s about a 12-year old boy who escapes a Communist concentration camp in Bulgaria sometime after WWII where he has spent his entire life. He sets out on a risky journey across Europe trying to reach Denmark in hopes of finding freedom, facing imminent danger and uncertain people along the way. Since he was locked in a camp all his life, he is calloused with no emotions and doesn’t trust anyone.
It becomes a spiritual voyage of discovery where David slowly loses his instinctual mistrust of humanity and begins to smile, share, trust and ultimately, love.

This film awakens so many emotions in me, eerily taking me back to the emotional prison I experienced in my childhood while subject to the abuse of a calloused father. The story is one of inspiring hope for anyone feeling ‘trapped’ in a psychological or emotional prison.

David depicts the resilient, unbreakable spirit of a youth who overcomes traumatic circumstances and insurmountable odds to experience restoration, redemption, and a stirring reunion with someone special in the end… (not to give anything away).

Perhaps the most touching scene in the movie is a conversation about trust David has with his new friend, Sophie.

David: Why do people do such terrible things?
Sophie: Like what?
David: Like beat people, and kill them, and make them prisoners.
Sophie: Most people don’t do that, David.
David: My friend Johannes always used to tell me, “Trust no one.”
Sophie: Oh, life wouldn’t be worth living if you did that, David.

The tragedy of this story is that so many people never experience David’s resiliency. Living in an emotional prison, they have been hurt by another person’s cruelty and spend an entire lifetime learning to reject trust, consequently returning the misfortunes of cruelty on others in the same manner it was inflicted upon them. They never learn to love.

Without love and trust, there is no resiliency to the harms done to us.

Ann Landers once said, “If you have love in your life it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you don’t have it, no matter what else there is, it’s not enough.”

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

I Corinthians 13:4-8

To experience life as a fully alive Christ follower, we must learn to love, trust, and rebound from the harms inflicted upon us.

If not, life really wouldn’t be worth living.