Community, Faith, Ministry, Roy Baldwin

Let’s stop trying to fix each other.

This past week through multiple interactions with people, reading different articles and posts, and listening to a few different podcasts, this one thought has permeated through my feelings: “We need to stop fixing other people and start truly loving them.”

Context

For those who know my story, its a journey of coming alongside families and youth who have experienced some sort of trauma, loss or neglect. This includes our own journey as a family, with losing parents, 4 major moves and dealing with our own brokenness (conflict, stressors, sin, etc.) as a couple and as a family.

In a post I wrote a few years ago called, “The Beautiful Messiness of the Gospel,” I shared my understanding of the Gospel (which is important to this post):

You see, If the Gospel isn’t radically changing me, is it truly the Gospel? If I have good news to share and I am unwilling to share it, does it mean I never received it? If I cannot do what Christ did: leave his home and comfort and to take on the grief and sin of this world, to bind the wounds of the broken, provide a voice to those who are marginalized, to love my enemy, has the Gospel truly changed me? These are hard questions for me to not only ask myself but to ask God. But I have to ask them. And not only should I ask these questions but I have to find ways through my actions and words to share with others that the Gospel is the only answer to the fear, doubts and hate we see in our world today.

This perspective of His work in and through my life and my own brokenness is important context for what I want to share next.

A Sense of Belonging

In his book, “What Happened To You?” Dr. Bruce Perry shares,

“Love, given and felt, is dependent upon the ability to be present, attentive, attuned and responsive to another human being. The glue of humanity has been essential to the survival of our species-and to the health and happiness of the individual…It is in the small moments, when we feel the other person fully present, fully engaged, connected and accepting, that we make the most powerful and enduring bonds.”

“What Happened To You” (page 81-82)

We see this so clearly in 1 Corinthians 13…:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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.”

1 Corinthians 13:5-8

We use the word “community” a lot in Christian circles. We talk of its importance and the benefit of being in Christian community to help grow faith. I think this is especially true coming out of a pandemic but I wonder if we truly know the purpose and significance of community. Typically when we speak about community we do it through the lens of programing and activities (small groups/life groups, Bible studies, men’s and/or women’s groups, etc.), but that isn’t really getting to the essence of community.

If I asked you for words to describe the benefits of community, we might use words like; authenticity, trusting, safe, united, a sense of belonging, etc.

Unfortunately for many people this never becomes their experience in many of the programming mentioned above. Programs in and of themselves cannot produce the kind of faith many of these programs hope to achieve. Programming cannot replace relationships. For these initiatives to work we actually need to have a deeper understanding of what it means to produce healthier people and interactions. We need to have a fuller and deeper understanding of how faith is transmitted and strengthened.

Let’s Stop Fixing Each Other

One thing I often see, especially in men, is our desire to fix things.

I know I struggle with this at times, especially with my wife and kids, to always having an answer or response. We do this a lot in churches. We throw a Scripture verse at someone or use some Christian cliché.

I had hoped that a lifetime of coming alongside other people would help me be more empathetic and a better listener, but I always have work to do in this area. I do like to think that some of my greatest growth over the past few years is to give up trying to constantly managing others perceptions of me and just being fully present in the lives of other people.

What does it mean to be fully present:

To listen. To empathize. To not only ask good questions but the right ones (Jesus was amazing at this). If correction is needed, to do it with gentleness and grace. If you speak truth…do it in love.

I am struck by the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2. Despite much opposition from the locals Paul shares his intentions:

We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children[a] among you” and then he shares an incredible image, “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 2: 6-12

“Just as a nursing mother cares for her children…” Paul is describing the bond of attachment a mother provides for her children that goes beyond just the physical benefits of nursing, but the emotional and relational attachments that are also forged and the benefits such as lower stress, increased calmness, a feeling of safety, etc.

Research has shown in multiple studies, such as The Mills Longitudinal Study and the Harvard Study of Adult Development, that people who feel connected to others is critical to healthier outcomes. These relational pictures of mom and dad that Paul is writing to describe his relationship with the Thessalonians as one of safety, healthy, nurturing, loving and caring. You don’t see judging, fixing, shaming, condemning. You see gentleness. You see in verse ll and 12, “as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging to live lives worthy of God…”

Maybe what we desire more than community is actually connection. And not just any connection: Healthy connections. Safe connections. Godly connections. Gospel-centered connections.

We do not necessarily achieve connection by always trying to fix each other.

So…the next time we feel like we need to fix someone… we need to stop and listen. Identify with their humanity as an image bearer of God. Be fully present. Care for them. Love them…yes, even our enemies. Ask clarifying questions. Be safe for them. If we must disagree or correct…do it with a spirit of gentleness and care for them. We need to care for them as much as we care for the truth…because what we see in Christ and in research…healthy relationships and connections are the key to healing and restoration.

Faith, Family, Roy Baldwin

Sincere Faith Cannot Be Outsourced

This is a follow up to a previous post I wrote entitled, “We Are Failing Children.” This post tackles the subject of passing faith down to our children.

Sincerity

Being sincere is important to me. Sincerity is a character trait in which I want others to see in my life. I want others to see it in the way I interact with them, listen to them, how “present” I am with them and what they have observed in me as I interact with others. I would want this to be true of me regardless if I am with my children (who know me better than anyone else) or with a complete stranger.

Let me define sincerity.

Sincerity is defined as “the absence of pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy.” One example would be found in the life of Ben Franklin. He saw sincerity as one of 13 virtues in which to live by. He defined sincerity as, “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.” Living a sincere life is seen as a virtue in most cultures and faith traditions over the centuries. Confucius stated, “To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.“

Sincerity is an incredibly important part of our Christian faith as well…in fact I believe it is the lynchpin to faith transmission.

Sincerity…a lynchpin? YES.

Why is sincerity so important? I believe sincerity brings to life (demonstrates) on a daily basis, in our words and actions, the very things we have placed our hope in. I love what Dallas Willard writes about living the Christian life. In Renovations Of The Heart In Daily Practice he writes, “Our lives are a result of what we have become in the depths of our being-what we call our spirit, will, or heart. From there we see our world and interpret reality. From there we make choices, break forth into action, and try to change our world. That is why the greatest need of collective humanity is the renovation of the heart…The Revolution of Jesus is one of character, which proceeds by changing people from the inside through an ongoing personal relationship to God in Christ and to one another. It changes their ideas, beliefs, feelings, habits of choice, bodily tendencies, and social relations.” (p.15)

This change as Dallas suggest impacts every aspect of our lives. The sincerity of which we live this out internally and then in relationship with others becomes a critical part of how faith is transmitted.

If sincerity is a virtue and a pursuit we should all be after…what does this have to do with faith?

Having worked with many parents over the years, I often ask parents what their deepest longing is for their children (Both Christian and non-churched parents). Two answers would typically surface: for Christian parents it was for their children to know Jesus (eternal life) and to be happy or fulfilled in life (aspects of flourishing), and for non-churched parents it was for their children to be happy or fulfilled typically by what they could attain (career, money, etc.) In some ways, Christian or non-Christian parents alike always expressed the following sentiment, “I want my kids to be better off than me.”

If we long for our children or grandchildren to flourish in life, which by the way, requires the “right” character traits (sincerity as one) and behaviors that will last, there are certain things we cannot outsource or abdicate as I tackled in my last post. Are you going to trust just anyone with your deepest longings for your children? If a sincere faith or character isn’t near the top of the list, I would hope by the end of this post it would be.

Let me explain my thinking

Let me define sincerity from a Biblical perspective. A gospel-centered sincerity is an intentional, transparent, and honest pursuit of grace (undeserved favor that we cannot earn) and truth (consistent with the nature of God’s character and His design of all of creation) in all of life. The pursuit of grace probably needs to be unpacked more, but for the sake of this post, the sentiment I am after is found beautifully in the words of Dallas Willard, “Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning.” This includes grace and truth about ourselves, grace and truth about others—but most importantly, the impact of grace and truth as we experience the work of Christ in our lives. Our attempts to achieve true sincerity are experienced and revealed as we unpack these three aspects – self, others, and God.

For a growing Christian, desire will always outstrip performance or, at least, perceived performance. What is it then that will keep us going in the face of this tension between desire and performance? The answer is the gospel. It is the assurance in the gospel that we have indeed died to the guilt of sin and that there is no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus that will motivate us and keep us going even in the face of this tension…That is why I use the expression “gospel-driven sanctification” and that is why we need to “preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” (Jerry Bridges)

“Gospel-centered sincerity” is not achieved when we try to discover our real selves and throw it into the microwave of personal feelings, performance-driven results, and cultural opinions as we strive to “be real” although these responses at some level are a part of the process. This lifelong process of sincerity as a virtue is only achieved as it collides with the Gospel that hopefully we are preaching to ourselves daily.

Some Key Scriptures:

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.” Joshua 24:14

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” 1 Peter 1:22

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:17

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 1:5

We know our faith is truly sincere or authentic when people are drawn closer to the heart of God by witnessing the process of our pursuit of grace and truth.

The verses above demonstrate the nature in which we live out His work in our lives. This process should be transformative. This transformation is not just for a Facebook and Instagram world where everything looks great or I have all the answers.

This process is messy and broken. It is never sanitized. Faith is discovered and tested in those moments when I am prone to get angry, fearful, or selfish.

Hopefully those closest to me (my wife and children) can “give testimony” of my growth as they see the Gospel come to life as I sincerely allow His grace and truth to transform me.

What I have come to learn in my life is that this kind of sincere faith is deeply personal and drives my convictions and beliefs. I cannot outsource my faith to anything or anyone and this is also true for my children (Deuteronomy 6). I need them to see and experience His work in my life.

If Christ’s people genuinely enter Christ’s way of the heart, they will find a sure path toward becoming the persons they were meant to be: thoroughly good and godly persons yet purged of arrogance, insensitivity and self-sufficiency.” (Dallas Willard)

How do I pass faith onto my children then?

I am no expert in this, other than I see the data and read His Word and I am pursuing it the best way I can for my own children and family. The programs we offer in church are not necessarily producing the outcomes in regards to faith transmission…and as I mentioned in a previous post it is because we have forsaken the impact that mom and dad have on their homes and the sincerity of which faith, love and hope are transmitted.

According to a study by Vern Bengston (Longitudinal Study of Generations), they found that faith is transmitted through the emotional warmth exchanged between parent and child. Learning the practices of faith such as prayer, attending church, and studying the Bible are critical. But what makes it “sticky” and brings those practices to life happens within a flourishing relationship between parent and child.

Here are a couple of the big takeaways from Vern’s book, “Families and Faith Findings…”

“Parental warmth is the key to successful [religious] transmission” (186)
“Families do matter in determining the . . . religious outcomes of young adults, and they matter a great deal” (195)
“Fervent faith cannot compensate for a distant dad” (196)

PERSONAL APPLICATION

This past year I sat down with my family and I acknowledged that I was sorry for not being the dad they needed me to be. Anger. Moodiness. Tension. All of these things in my life were influencing the safety felt in my home. My children were quick to say, “Dad, you are not failing us,” but the reality is that I was being a poor example of Jesus in my home. I have to own that. Since that time, I have been working really hard to be a healthier person in my house and in my car.

I have been working really hard to be emotionally warm and present with my kids. I have been intentional in truly listening to them and loving them. I have also been sharing with them my devotions and having conversations and sharing thoughts about the work God is doing in my life. I want them to see it…I want them to know that the change they see in me isn’t my own work…but His. (“The Revolution of Jesus”)

I want them to see the sincerity of my faith shine through my imperfections as much as my perfections (what I get right). You see if they don’t see it…they will walk away from faith because they will see the hypocrisy in it. This is THE BATTLE for families and for the church. To see sincere and authentic acts of faith lived out in homes. Sincere and authentic faith is transmitted when my family can truly see me being my most sincere self in light of the redemptive work of the Gospel. If my kids can’t see that… then I have completely missed the point of not only my faith but what it means to be a parent. 

As the world continues to fail my children, I will keep pointing them to the One who will never fail.

Community, Culture, Faith, Family, Ministry, Roy Baldwin

We Are Failing Children

The intent of this post is not to blame, shame, or politicize data. I also don’t want to oversimplify a very complex issue. I simply want to share a perspective I don’t hear talked about a lot in Christian circles. (This is the first of two posts.)

It is difficult for me to watch the news and scroll through my social media feeds nowadays without a sense that at some level we are failing children and youth on an unprecedented level. It’s everywhere. Postmodernism is redefining everything. Yuval Harari in his book, “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” provides some excellent descriptors of postmodernism: “Modernity is a surprisingly simple deal. The entire contract can be summarized in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power...Since there is no script, and since humans fulfill no role in any great drama, terrible things might befall us and no power will come to save us or give meaning to our suffering. There won’t be a happy ending, or a bad ending, or any ending at all. Things just happen, one after the other. The modern world does not believe in purpose, only in cause.”“Meaning and authority always go hand in hand. Whoever determines the meaning of our actions – whether they are good or evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly – also gains the authority to tell us what to think and how to behave.”

If postmodernism contends that there is no objective truth…is it any wonder that children are suffering?

I typically have the following filters: a deep transformative view of the Gospel (good news); the sacredness of every life; the loss and trauma of our world. I have worked with at-risk and vulnerable children for decades and in multiple venues and situations. These filters I have are not just merely sentiments…they have been forged in the fire of life.

So, as I think about the sentiment of “we are failing children” there is a deeply personal part of this for me that comes out and that I have to process.

There are stories and faces of the young men and their families that had a huge impact on my time at EGA (residential care facility serving the 5 boroughs of NY City). As I served as a houseparent with my wife at a residential school, loving and supporting a home of 8-10 girls (70+ girls in 9 years). The lives, the stories, the joy, the loss. When I think of our own family journey of 27 years of marriage and three kids. It’s been a hard but beautiful adventure. There have been some really amazing and beautiful moments but there have also been hardships and losses.

Why are children failing?

I firmly believe that the family unit has been outsourcing and abdicating its responsibilities for decades (generations) because the very institutions meant to support and partner with families, such as schools, churches, and government, have effectively neutered the authority of the family by telling families, “we can do it better than you,” and “we know better than you.” (Whoever determines the meaning of our actions – whether they are good or evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly – also gains the authority to tell us what to think and how to behave.”)

In essence, how dare you show up to a school board meeting and express your concerns about what is being taught or talk about the safety of your children without being labeled or looked down upon.

How are we failing children you ask? Let’s look at some of the data:

  • Prior to the pandemic less than half of children in the US were flourishing according to a study out of John Hopkins. Children who are flourishing are directly connected to the strength (resilience and connection) of the parent/child relationship.
  • Since the pandemic, these indicators of children failing have gotten worse. According to the CDC: a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health; 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless; 55% reported experiencing emotional abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including swearing at, insulting, or putting down the student.
  • 11% experienced physical abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including hitting and beating
  • 29% reported a parent or other adult in their home lost a job.
  • Teen suicide is up (31% increase from 2019-2021) – and a fivefold increase in suicide attempts in children ages 10-12 (2010-2020)
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that hospital visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12 to 17 jumped 51 percent between February and March 2021. For boys, that number increased by 4 percent.

If this data is true, (and there is so much more data) then why are we not talking more about this? Why are children, after spending more time at home during the pandemic, seem to be worse off? Research tells us that the healthy parent/child relationship is critical to the long-term resilience of children and leads to better outcomes in children and adults than anything else. If children are doing worse, then what does that say about the health of homes and families? Our children should not be worse off…

This doesn’t mean we start shaming parents, although there is plenty of blame and ownership to go around with how parents are raising their children today. If you ask most parents, they would probably tell you, “I was just following the norm and expectations of taking kids to school, loving my child, being involved in their activities, occasionally taking them to church and they will turn out ok.” At some level, the pandemic ripped open these norms and expectations and the data doesn’t lie…our children are in trouble.

Things are not ok and these very institutions have betrayed (intentionally or not) the sacred trust that should exist to help protect the family and children even if it means calling out the very unhealthy behaviors that probably should be addressed in families. I know many teachers and school personnel that feel absolutely helpless in dealing with many of the behavioral issues and challenges in schools either by their own policies and/or what is tolerated for fear of reprisal and threats by parents. It’s not healthy on any level.

The Role of the Church

As I process what is happening culturally, what role does faith and the church play in all of this? Is this another institution that has missed the mark? I often hear the following sentiment from parents whose children are no longer in their homes and who have “walked away from the faith” yet attended church most of their lives and wrestle with regret about not being a better parent to their children: “I just wish I knew sooner what they needed from me.”

Well, why didn’t they know sooner?

It’s because their primary and life-giving role is not elevated within the walls and programs of the church. It’s a secondary or tertiary intervention at best to help parents when it should be a primary role of the church to equip and inspire families to thrive and flourish.

On a regular basis, parents need to be reminded from the pulpit that they are their child’s number one pastor and then offer and design innovative ways to help them do that. Church Programming such as Sunday School, Youth Group, Retreats and Camps, and many other programs are meant to support the role of the parent, not replace.

Somewhere along the line, we have bought into the idea that a youth leader is better suited to teach our children about Jesus than parents are. We let them handle it – after all, they’re “cooler” than us. They understand scripture, have a better understanding of the pressures teens face, and probably have some training on how to make a better impact on their lives.  Most youth leaders I know play a huge role in teens’ lives and in most cases the previous descriptions are true (cool, relevant, and can teach the Bible).

But that doesn’t mean I outsource my child’s faith.

I hope you do not hear criticism of the amazing work we are doing in our churches, that being said, we can no longer pay lip service once a year to a child’s dedication of the important role parents play and then never mention it again.

How is Faith Actually Transmitted?

Research (i.e. Families and Faith, Vern Bengtson) and scriptures (i.e. Deuteronomy 6) instruct us that parents play the most important role in faith transmission. As Christian Smith (professor and author, “Souls in Transition”) has stated about the role parents play, “Parents are their child’s number one pastor.” I don’t believe that is hyperbole.

We are failing children because we are not respecting the design God has created in the way faith is transmitted.

If my main role as a man (husband and father) in my house is to be pastoral in my home, how would that change and influence my everyday life? I would suggest that being pastoral is not optional. It’s a part of the design. As a dad, whether I am present or not, I am passing some sort of “faith” tradition down to my children. They will then live their lives accepting or rejecting the truth which I have modeled and taught them by the way I have lived and loved them. Do I lead with a Gospel centered worldview or a postmodern worldview?

The truth is we are impressing something onto our children. If not us, someone is waiting to impress something onto them.

There is no substitute for the direct investment a parent has on their children. As many scholars and researchers will tell you, no one can replace or even come close to the impact a parent has on the faith of their children. Our faith is something we cannot outsource to someone who has them for one to two hours a week. We need to find partners in youth leaders and in the church to help reinforce a strong faith, but their key role is to come alongside to support.  It is my job as a parent to find key adults and communities to speak truth, love, and grace into their lives, and trust me…most youth leaders want to see you involved.

Final Thoughts

This is a complex subject and at some level, I have not given it justice. Working as the CEO for a faith-based child placing agency (foster care and prisons) where we stand in the gap between many of the institutions I described above, I see every day how we are failing children. Every day I am tired of the poor outcomes despite the many amazing individuals who work in these fields working desperately for better outcomes for kids. The truth is… it starts with these very institutions to stop playing the hero… and focus their strategies and programming around inspiring and equipping moms and dads in their families with the tools and truth that actually lead to better outcomes in them and in their children AND ultimately point to the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus (who is the ultimate “hero” of this story). There is no way around this truth. There is no way around its created design.

Look for post #2 on this topic as I go further into defining a critical aspect of faith and how faith is transmitted.

Faith, Roy Baldwin

Resilient Faith

I was recently having a conversation with someone about the impact and fallout of COVID-19. For reasons that we may never understand, COVID-19, a dangerous pandemic that has derailed plans and routines, put lives at risk, and shut down businesses and schools, has impacted every one of us.

The conversation then shifted to the impact this has had on marriages and families. I shared some of the things we are doing as a family to adjust and get along. How do you manage close spaces? How do you work through healthy conflict and disagreements? How do you handle stress and anxiety? How do you manage the loss of familiar routines and the pain of creating new ones?


It begs the question:

How can we thrive in the midst of a global pandemic?

I then remembered this very important principle designed by our Creator: Resilience. I have often preached or spoken about this topic.  I’m extremely passionate about it because of my own personal journey and growth, but also because of the many at-risk families and youth I have worked with for more than 25 years.

RESILIENT FAITH

From the moment we are born to the moment we draw our last breath, we are placing our faith in someone or something. All of us are on a faith journey, not just those who have placed their faith in Christ.

Resilience is often a misunderstood concept in our society. We hear about resilience as the ability to: “spring back;” or “pick yourself back up;” or “overcome challenges.” Don’t confuse these descriptions with the definition of survival, which is “the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.” (Oxford Dictionary) There is a really BIG and significant difference between the two:

Real resilience is “the process of coping with disruptive, stressful, or challenging life events in a way that provides the individual with additional protective and coping skills than prior to the disruption, that results from the event.” (Resiliency in Schools, 2003)

Resiliency is not about surviving through adversity: it is built because of the presence of adversity and how you learn and grow from it.

Would you describe your faith journey as resilient? The challenge and reality for most of us is that we don’t always come out of it stronger on the other side, do we?

I know in my own faith journey I have gone through immense amounts of loneliness, pain, and subsequent addictions that I am not proud of. Although pain is a part of the faith journey, I have, at times, let my pain point me to places where I did not place my faith in Christ, but rather in a cheap substitute.

Too often we choose a path that medicates or numbs our pain, instead of allowing our faith to grow into something bigger and stronger. Growth is painful. And pain is something we are culturally conditioned to fix, instead of endure. But Paul says this:

“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.” (Romans 5:1-5)

Hope? Is that all we get from toughing it out?

But this isn’t the kind of hope where we think, “Geez, I hope this works out.” This is the kind of hope that is like an absolute anchor or rock. We can put all of our faith in it without wavering because it will hold firm and strong. When the storm surges and the wind howls, we can have this hope through Christ that transforms our faith because, as Scripture tells us, it is producing something in us.

Our circumstances are not just a source of pain and challenge.  They have a purpose.  The challenge for many of us is seeing the things we face in life are opportunities and not just obstacles.  Here is a chart to help bring some general understanding of the difference between a surviving faith and a resilient faith:

A Surviving Faith A Resilient Faith
Bitterness (Hebrews 12:14-15) Acceptance (Psalm 19:14)
Resentment (Galatians 5:20) Contentment (Philippians 4:12-13)
Unforgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15) Forgiveness (Psalm 32)
Addiction (1 Corinthians 6:12) Connection (Galatians 6:2)
Loneliness (Psalm 25:16) Community (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) Depression (1 Peter 5:7) Peace (Philippians 4:7)
Shame (Psalm 69: 5,7) Wholeness (James 1:2-5)
Guilt (2 Corinthians 7:10) Resolution (Hebrews 4:15-16)

*A couple of points about this contrast: its not exhaustive; its not meant to condemn but to provide a filter which looks at how you are processing the different aspects of your life.

When you look at your pain points and wounds, would you say they have strengthened your faith or weakened it? Have you medicated your pain (alcohol, drugs, pornography, cutting, unhealthy relationships, etc.), instead of facing it? Have you invested your faith in self-reliance instead of in the Savior?

Faith as a Rubber Band

Resilience is much like a rubber band, though for a Christian it takes on a deeper, fuller meaning when you combine it with your faith.

A rubber band, when stretched, returns back to its original form. I don’t think our faith in Christ was ever intended to return back to its original form. I believe as our heavenly Father stretches our faith he does so to transform it into something bigger and stronger. Thicker and wider. Wiser and kinder. Our faith should begin to produce fruits such as peace, patience, faithfulness, and self control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The point of our faith is that it isn’t just for us.  It’s also for those whom we love and serve. Our families should be direct recipients of our faith, witnessing it being stretched and conformed into His image. Our churches and communities should change and grow as the family of God experiences together, a faith being stretched into something that proclaims His glory rather than personal achievement and significance.

When we walk through the tough stuff of life and are not strengthened through the trial, we rob God of His glory. We deprive God of the opportunity to strengthen, not only our own faith, but those around us.

In Ephesians 3, Paul writes, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV)

I hope this post helps you to reflect on your faith and how you are currently responding to the things of life.  Are you able to see and trust the Lord as he stretches your “faith band” into something more beautiful and more profound than anything you could ever dream or imagine?  Maybe some of you feel like your faith rubber band is torn and tattered.  If that is you, my prayer is that you would know there is a God who redeems and restores the broken, if you seek Him and cry out to Him. (Isaiah 61:1-3).

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3


Don’t just survive. In Christ, you can thrive.

Much love from someone who is constantly having his rubber band stretched.