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?
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.
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.