Resilience: the capacity to recover from difficulties. Resilience is what gives people the mental and psychological strength to cope with stress and hardship. It is the mental reservoir of strength that people call on in times of need to carry them through without falling apart. Resilient people are better able to handle adversity and rebuild their lives after a disaster, a setback, or some other hardship. They find a way to change course (if needed), emotionally heal, and rebuild their lives.
It’s looking like COVID-19 is giving us all plenty of opportunity to practice resilience. Some have certainly suffered more than others from this pandemic. It’s logical to assume that the need for resilience is greater and more difficult the greater the suffering. But all of us will need to be resilient as we continue to navigate the ever-changing environment of this disease.
Unfortunately, the stressors of COVID-19 are taxing the resiliency of many folks as the rates of substance abuse and other destructive coping measures are climbing at alarming rates. However, we have seen lots of inspiring examples of resiliency among health care workers and others in the past two months—and we will no doubt see more. Their stories encourage and strengthen our resolve to make it through this.
A great example of resiliency in the Bible is the Apostle Paul. His life seemed to carom from one adversity to another, but nothing could push him off his path. In 2 Cor. 11:23-28, Paul looks back and summarizes his life:
I have been beaten times without number. I have faced death again and again. I have been beaten the regulation thirty-nine stripes by the Jews five times. I have been beaten with rods three times. I have been stoned once. I have been shipwrecked three times. I have been twenty-four hours in the open sea. In my travels, I have been in constant danger from rivers, bandits, from my own countrymen, and from pagans. I have faced danger in city streets, danger in the desert, danger on the high seas, danger among Christians. I have known drudgery, exhaustion, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, fasting, cold and exposure. Apart from all external trials, I have the daily burden of responsibility for all the churches. (Philips Translation)
In spite of this long litany of hardship, Paul remained on his chosen path. Nothing could convince him that he had made the wrong choice years before on the road to Damascus. Near the end of his life, Paul wrote, “I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” (Phil. 3:13-14). Certainly Paul is not just a fair-weather disciple. He’s been tested in almost unbelievable ways, yet continues to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Faith is an important component of resilience. Faith in God provides an organizing center for life and gives us a different set of lens through which to view life’s difficulties. Faith also leads us to understand that resilience is not the result of our own determination so much as it is the result of God’s faithfulness. Being resilient is not about seeing through rose-colored glasses, but about knowing that God sticks with us. Thank God for a God to lean into in a time such as this!
Phil Kanagy, pastor
May 13, 2020