How will the Northwood family whose house blew up the other day pick themselves up after such a shocking and devastating loss? How will the Muslim community recover following the mosque shootings of 15 March? And how will our city continue to recover after the devastation of the 210-11 earthquakes?
Well it turns out that there is one quality that will make all the difference. And that is resilience. Resilience is that personal quality that enables a person to be strengthened through adversity; to not only survive a setback but to become stronger and to grow through the experience. Possible situations may include dealing with and recovering from cancer, responding to a business failure, coping with a natural disaster or dealing with the challenges of aging.
In recent decades researchers have increasingly realised that resilience is vital for human flourishing in the face of misfortune. And they have discovered that resilience is a blend of qualities which include self-control, adaptability, optimism, self-sufficiency and stickability. The triumph of the Silver Ferns at the recent Netball World Cup is a great expression of resilience.
But resilience has actually been recognised and valued for millennia. Confucius, living between 551-480 BC said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” In sporting circles we often hear the quote “What does not kill me makes me stronger” – Nietzsche said that in 1889! Perhaps in 2019 we’re just a bit late to the resilience party!
However it’s the faith dimension of resilience that I think is especially important. Because studies have shown that those who have a living faith in God have a natural pre-disposition toward being resilient.
For example faith offers meaning in the face of adversity and helps us trust that God is with us and that we are part of a deeper purpose. Faith gives people a sense of hope that the adversity won’t last forever and the imagination to see ourselves on the other side. Faith enables us to draw on subjective and spiritual resources that provide comfort and strength to carry on with grace and dignity. And being in a faith community offers support and encouragement within our trials.
In the midst of St Paul’s sufferings he was able to write “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal …” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).
English priest and academic Ven Dr Justine Chapman spoke recently about the three ‘Cs’ of resilience. Coping: we must be honest and acknowledge the adversity – that we are struggling, broken and not perfect. Constancy: We are invited to pay attention to our situation, to embrace the suffering and to know that God is still with us. Construction: Finally, by God’s grace and in God’s time, we are led to a place of stability within the adversity and a place of fruitfulness. It can be surprising what God brings forth in our lives in the midst of our trials.
Kintshugi is the Japanese art of taking broken pottery, mending it, and instead of trying to conceal the marks of the break, decorating the cracks with lacquer mixed with powdered gold. The repaired pot or bowl is more precious following the repair than before. This beautifully illustrates the principle of resilience as God works for good and strengthens us through adversity.
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