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

The world is stitched together with RESILIENCE.  Countless stories of resilience thread through the ages – a fundamental expression of our humanity.  What is more, resilience shows up in many forms; it is not a single skill.  Resilience is a complex embodiment of diverse competencies that enable people to thrive in difficulty.  Some seem to be born with it, most have to develop their stores of resilience and grit.

Resilience asks the following questions:  Are you able to persevere when things get difficult?  Do you get back up when life knocks you down?  Can you 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 be and have anything we desire, permeates.  In reality, our lives are a disillusionment, and the younger generation is angry, self-absorbed, and overcome with anxiety and a sense of hopelessness.  It is, 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 remember the hallowed weight of magnificent responsibility on our lives?  As God’s people – Kingdom dwellers – we enact what already is.  Though there are still battles to be fought, the war really has already been won.  Before long, 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 a 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

Adversity introduces us to ourselves – Albert Einstein

When things are tough, you fight one more round – James J Corbett, World Heavyweight Champion 1892

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 athlete; a life of resilience and dedication.  Even so, the world around us 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.  Resilient people have learned to do difficult things.  They have hardened against discouragement, they have overcome the emotional, impulsive quit in themselves, they have wisened up to their own excuses.

A very practical way to embody resilience directly is to embrace the uncomfortable work of an athlete.  In order to become something new, new things have to be done.  Like most worthwhile things in life, resilience takes practice.  A straightforward dedication to physical effort, whatever form it takes, increases tenacity and resilience.  “All effort—even failed effort—produces muscle” (Alex Harris).

When difficulty is added to our days voluntarily and increased incrementally, resilience grows and takes root.  People, and lives, change through perseverance in discomfort.  Such a steady practice of overcoming is foundational, 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.  The resilient have built a sturdy habit of leaning into obstacles and discomfort, and have found it a wholesome and fortifying practice.  Few things in life feel as good as doing what needs to be done.

Now of course, this could be taken too far.  It is important to desist when necessary.  But at the same time, Believers have a race to run to the very end, despite every obstacle.  Discomfort wakens us to our greater purpose.  We have to take action, because intention alone does not bring change.  Every moment we are alive is made up of choices we make; small, insignificant choices that alone do not mean much, but combined together, mean everything.

As Christ-followers, we are to run 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 exercise self-control in all things (1Cor 9:25).  We are to run this race 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.

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

Recent Posts

In Praise of Albums

In Praise of Albums

Ydi Coetsee Carstens reflects on the meaning and value of albums. In a world of endless feeds and infinite scrolling, albums provide a wholesome limitation for artist and listener. Albums remind us that endings are normal, that melancholy and sadness, endings and new beginnings, cycles of productivity and periods of rest constitute the pattern of human life.