Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
It caught my eye as I walked home from my office. It looked out of place. It really should not have been there, but there it was, surround by concrete. It was a small plant emerging from a small hole in an otherwise sterile environment.
Ever since my days as a biology major in college, I have been fascinated by the resilience of plants. They have an amazing ability to overcome obstacles and persevere. During one of my classes we took a field trip to an abandoned housing development. There were no houses, but the blacktop streets were in place, along with fire hydrants and street lights. What our professor wanted us to see was the ability of plants to reclaim land. Without the interference from people, the plants broke up the blacktop and recaptured the fields. They demonstrated amazing resilience.
According to Psychology Today, “Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.” Just as the little plant surrounded by concrete continues to grow and thrive, so people who have developed resilience can overcome the many challenges of life. Psychologists have identified four characteristics that increase a person’s resilience.
- People who have a sense of autonomy, self-worth, good health, are more resilient.
- People who have a positive role in society and positive relationships are more resilient.
- People who develop the ability to problem solve, make goals, and take action are more resilient.
- People with a positive belief system that recognizes that there is good in all situations and that self-development is important are more resilient.
As believers in Christ, we can rewrite these characteristics in relationship to our faith.
- Because our identity is wrapped up in Christ, we can be resilient. (Galatians 2:20)
- Because we are part of the body of Christ, we can be resilient. (1 Corinthians 12:27)
- Because we have been given a mission and purpose in life, we can be resilient. (Matthew 28:18-20)
- Because we have faith in Christ, we can be resilient. (John 3:16-18)
The Bible does not use the word resilience to describe a person who thrives spiritually. Instead it uses the term perseverance. Perseverance and resilience are closely related. Both are essential for our spiritual growth.
James tells us that we should look upon the trials of life as an opportunity to strengthen our resilience. Pushing through the trials of life actually makes us stronger people. But this happens only when we understand what is going on. Whether we are discouraged by trials or energized by them depends on our perspective.
In 1 Peter 1, Peter reminds us that the trials of life are serving an eternal purpose. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
The pathway to maturity leads us through the trials of life. If we give in to discouragement and give up on the struggle, we will remain immature in our faith. But if we persevere through our trials, we will grow in our faith and become mature in Christ.
Our ability to persevere and be resilient in the face of trials and hardships is dependent upon our perspective. The more that we cultivate an eternal perspective, the more resilient we will be in life. Because we know that we are secure in Christ, we can not only survive in the face of trials, we can thrive.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.