12/09/2021

RESILIENCE

as Practice for Kingdom Dwellers  

In honour of Theo

2 Timothy 4:7   I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 

Never was any material made as resilient as the human spirit. – Bern Williams

What humankind actually needs is not a tensionless state, but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of them. – Viktor Frankl

We must remember: there is no easy way. – Ryan Holiday

RESILIENCE  is life-craft.  It is an essential part of our humanity.  As the many and diverse stories of resilience teach us, resilience is not a single skill.  It is multi-faceted.  It is a complex embodiment of diverse abilities that enables someone to thrive in the face of adversity.  Few people are born resilient.  The rest of us have to develop our stores of resilience and grit.

Resilience could be summed up as follows:  Are you able to persevere when things get difficult?  Do you get back up when life knocks you down?  Are you able to remain standing when the pressure mounts?  Are you happy to be alive?  Do you know why you are here?

Sebastian Junger, author, filmmaker, war reporter and journalist, said:

Humans don’t mind hardship.  In fact, they thrive on it.  What they mind is not feeling necessary.  Modern society has perfected the art of making people feel not necessary.  It is time for that to end.

Most of us are aware that our Western world has become digitally invested, convenience-driven, affirmation-dependent, constantly distracted, and risk-averse.  Our lives lack heroism, hardship, and concrete contending.  Yet, untested as we are, the belief that we have the right to do anything and be anything we want, is pervasive.  In reality, our lives are a disillusionment, and the younger generation is angry, self-absorbed, and overcome with anxiety and hopelessness.  It is perhaps, at least in the West, the age of the unresilient, and it has been a while since Christians have shown themselves to be leaders in resilience.

Present times are crying out for Kingdom people who can do hard and holy things.

The question is, what will it take for us to realize the weight of hallowed responsibility on our lives?  As God’s people, we enact what already is.  Though there are still battles to be fought, in truth, the war has already been won.  Soon, the Enemy will be finally vanquished, and Christ will return on the clouds to dwell with us again.  Until then, we are the body of Christ in the world, the intersection of heaven and earth, the first fruits of the Kingdom, bringing Eden back.  It is a great calling; one which requires an undeniable measure of stoutness from the people of God.

How then, do we practice resilience, that we may be equal to the holy work before us?

Five aspects of resilience are worthy of attention: Overcoming, Quick Learning, Withstanding, Tears, and the Serious Business of Joy.

OVERCOMING or

The Obstacle is the Way

Revelation 3:21  To the ones who overcome, I will grant to them to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 

Revelation 17:4  They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with Him are called and chosen and faithful.

All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming. — Helen Keller

When things are tough, you fight one more round. — James J Corbett, World Heavyweight Champion

What is possible when a generation stops assuming that someone else will take care of the brokenness in the world … and realizes that they are called to action? — Alex Harris, from Do Hard Things

Human beings are surprisingly well-suited to exertion and hard use.  Something in our make-up longs for challenge and sacrificial service.  In biblical terms, Kingdom dwellers are called to be hard-wearing farmers, soldiers, and athletes; a life of resilience and dedication.  Even so, the world concurrently holds an unspoken belief that life should be pleasurable, and discomfort is avoided reflexively.

The resilient are well versed in hardship.

The truth is that easy times do not teach resilience well.  Resilience is bred in difficulty.  It is not theoretical.  The resilient have become who they are through struggle and hardship.  It is obstacle and adversity that have introduced them to their true selves.  The veneer has come off, and they have had to learn to do hard things.  They have hardened against discouragement.  They have overcome the emotional, impulsive quit in themselves.  They have wisened up to their own excuses.

People have a wonderful ability to embody resilience directly by committing to the hard and uncomfortable work of an athlete.  In order to become something new, new things have to be done.  Resilience, like most worthwhile things in life, is practice.  Straightforward dedication to physical training, whatever form it takes, fosters the growth of tenacity and resilience.  “All effort—even failed effort—produces muscle” (Alex Harris).

Resilience grows steadily when difficulty is added to our daily routine, and increased incrementally.  People, and lives, change through perseverance in discomfort.  It is foundational to build a steady practice of overcoming, because life bends in the direction of our habits.  Most often, human beings do not rise to the occasion, but rather sink to the level of what they usually do, or worse.  Resilient people catch themselves when they are avoiding obstacles and discomfort, and instead make themselves lean into it, to the habitual level.  It is a wholesome and fortifying practice.  Few things in life feel as good as doing what needs to be done.

Of course, this could all be taken too far.  It is important to desist when necessary.  But at the same time, Christ-followers have a race to run to the very end, despite the obstacles.  Discomfort wakens us to our greater purpose.  Intention alone does not bring change.  We have to take action.  Every moment we are alive is made up of choices we make; small, insignificant choices that alone mean nothing, but combined together, mean everything.

As Believers, we are to run the race before us in such a way that we may win, throwing off every thing that hinders and entangles.  This asks of us to discipline our bodies, and to exercise self-control in all things (1Cor 9:25).  It asks of us to run with perseverance unto hope, which does not disappoint, for the Spirit has been given us.

Kingdom people are called to hard and holy things.  Oswald Chambers reminds us,

All noble things are difficult. The Christian life is gloriously difficult.  But the difficulty of it does not make us faint and cave in, it rouses us up to overcoming.

Grafted in by the God of ressurections, we rise like eagles; we run without wearying. 

The obstacle is our way.

Next we will turn to Quick Learning, which will be followed by Withstanding; Tears; and the Serious Business of Joy in further posts.

[to be continued]

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