Resilience. Writing that word conjures up quite a few emotions for me. I’ve been told I have lots of resilience. (Pride and Joy) And, I’ve been told that I need to “be more resilient”. (Anger and Sadness) That latter comment wasn’t so long ago. When I heard it, it stung and I had to walk away so that I wouldn’t respond in anger. It came long after I thought I had figured out the concept of resilience…. For the most part, I think I have (at least, conceptually). And, I think that the comment was likely more of a jab than anything else. But it ended up being a good jab (even though it really hurt) because it’s made me think about the concept of resilience and how Jesus wants us to live resilient lives as Christians….because in the end we are made more holy through refinement.
In Matthew 7:24-27, in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells the crowd about the wise man who built his house upon the rock. Even though the rains fell and the floods came, the man’s house was not washed away…. it stood strong. Crap will come our way – in all shapes, sizes, lengths, widths and ways. Jesus’s message, about building a house on the rock is this: we are to make Him our rock. No one can escape the crap that life will bring. And, some people get more crap thrown at them than others. If we make Jesus our rock, our ability to be resilient through that crap makes life bearable and prepares us for future crap. (yes, I know I just wrote crap about a thousand times….it’s a word I use often….and also interchange with one that’s a little more profane….see photo above)
Resilience. It’s all about perspective and purpose.
Viktor Frankl writes in Man’s Search for Meaning about being an inmate at Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp. Talk about a crappy (insert more profane word) situation. Frankl describes his gut-wrenching life at the camp under Nazi rule and how he endured (and survived) by finding meaning in every moment. Following that experience, he went on to detail his theory, logotherapy: the belief that human nature is motivated by the search for a life purpose. “According to Frankl, life’s meaning can be discovered in three different ways:
- By creating a work or accomplishing some task
- By experiencing something fully or loving somebody
- By the attitude that one adopts toward unavoidable suffering”
I’ve never been to Auschwitz, but I have been to a concentration camp just outside of Berlin. I probably didn’t say more than two words during the entire several hours we were there. I couldn’t stop thinking about the crap (insert more profane word) that the Jews had to endure (and from which many perished).
Life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death…..[CRAP]. That is Frankl’s message. And, how Jesus calls us to live.
Here’s my take on how all of this is related: Jesus is our meaning. He creates work for us (and equips us); He gives us Himself (and others) to love fully; and He works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)…thereby providing His frame for crappy situations.
In business school, I had to read Frankl’s book in tandem with The Resilience Factor. [Smart (and appreciated) move by my professor.] The book includes a Resilience Questionnaire which creates self-awareness for the reader in regards to their ability to be resilient [I had a high resilience quotient….hence, the (maybe slightly exaggerated) pride I described feeling above]. The book also describes strategies to:
- Cast off harsh self-criticisms and negative self-images
- Navigate through the fallout of any kind of crisis
- Cope with grief and anxiety
- Overcome obstacles in relationships, parenting, or on the job
- Achieve greater physical health
- Bolster optimism, take chances, and embrace life
All of these strategies can be rooted in that aforementioned purpose and perspective. You CAN get through any crappy situation by focusing on the perspective of a higher purpose.
Ok…… so I say all of this and yet, I struggle with this concept when it comes to the people with whom I do life who have experienced complex trauma. I haven’t been there. I can’t live in their shoes, because I haven’t had that experience. But I have experienced my own crap and seen others overcome complex trauma by focusing on that higher purpose: Jesus.
As my colleague says, “let’s never waste a crisis because there’s always an opportunity in there.” Crap can be traumatic. It’s also an opportunity: to make Jesus our rock. We can find meaning in Him in those crappy situations and He can teach us…… to trust Him and have faith in Him. Each situation refines us. Resilience building keeps us moving forward. Making us more holy.