Resilience – Honoring And Learning From

Paul had it. The Russian women in a training project over a period of 10 years have it. Cross country runners who compete in hot, humid 90 degree weather have it. Against all odds and with a strong temptation to quit these ones persevere with God inspiring resilience.

Paul had plenty of reasons to quit but he kept going… “in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and dishonor, bad report, good report; genuine yet regarded as imposters; known yet regarded as unknown; dying and yet we live on; beaten yet not killed; sorrowful yet always rejoicing; poor yet making many rich; having nothing yet possessing everything.” II Corinthians 6:4-8

Resilience is  “an ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change” –  an elastic band pulled and stretched almost to the point of snapping. When the pressure is released the band returns to its original shape  – tested and tried.

None picture this better than my friend whose massive right brain stroke left her with no function on her left side and the challenge of now living totally dependent on others to help her do the basics of daily life 24/7. We had the privilege recently of observing first hand my friend and her husband who takes care of her -models of resilience. Active tennis player, engaged in life, a productive, loving grandmother, a severe right brain stroke left her with no function on her left side and limited to a wheel chair. She has to relearn and retrain that portion of her brain impacted by the stroke. She has great determination to persevere.

From within her you see a resilient will of not giving up or giving in and a quiet determination to trust God giving glory to Him. Her model for me is compelling.

She and her husband had a choice to react with anger, despair, defeat OR respond through the grief of this severe loss with acceptance and a deep dependency on God. In an almost unassuming manner they’ve embraced this hard assignment in the latter part of their lives – not what they anticipated or would have ever chosen but what God has for them. It is not easy nor without hard challenges and set backs but their yielding in resilience is a picture of God’s sweet grace and empowerment – a beautiful bright red flower in the midst of a dry, unproductive, hard crusty ground.
“When you pass through the waters I will be with you and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you on fire…do not be afraid, for I am with you” Isaiah 43:2-4. 

 Jesus, our kind and powerful Savior shows us how and offers from His own life on earth the model of resilience “the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He also offers us an invitation “to fix our eyes on Him…consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3

What makes someone resilient?
* Not giving up when it would be so easy to throw in the towel and spiral down into the pit– “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12: 1

* A determined focus – “I have set the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

* A choice to see beyond the circumstances to the bigger picture –“by faith he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible”  – the one who empowers and provides grace to endure Hebrews 11:27b

* An awareness that this is not the final story here on earth – there will be rewards in heaven; how you respond to what God gives you matters. Consider God’s value of overcoming – Revelation 2 -3.

* A commitment to there is calling and purpose in suffering “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for Him” Philippians 1:29

And the hope we cling to produced from resilience – Isaiah 61:3 “ and provide those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.”

May God grant us the grace to be resilient like Jesus, Paul, our Russian sisters and all those cross country runners who never quit.
Picture credit – http://www.careers.govt.nz/practitioners/career-practice/archive/career-resilience-june-2009/

Gail Seidel served as Mentor Advisor for Spiritual Formation in the Department of Spiritual Formation and Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and as an Adjunct Professor in the D Min in Spiritual Formation in the D Min Department at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has a BA in English from the University of Texas, a Masters in Christian Education from Dallas Seminary and a D Min in Spiritual Formation from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is a contributor to the textbook, Foundations of Spiritual Formation, Kregel Academic. She served as co-director for Christian Women in Partnership Russia with Entrust, an international church leadership-training mission. She and her husband Andy live in Fredericksburg, Texas. They have 2 married children and 6 wonderful grandchildren--Kami, Kourtney, Katie, Mallory, Grayson, and Avery.

One Comment

  • Karla Zazueta

    Timely and Needed

    Thank you, Gail! Your article has ministered to me greatly, as I know it will to many others as well.