Living with Resilience
Living as a Christ-follower is like a marathon. It is not the person who starts the race, but the one who finishes the race that gets the applause. In fact, it’s not a race against each other for speed, but a race against the inner self that wants to quit when the route gets difficult. That’s why encouragement along the way, and runner-helping-runner, is so important. Some runners fall; some step aside for much needed refreshment; some get distracted momentarily. But all who complete the race and qualify for applause will eventually get up and continue onward.
In recent years my marathon has been punctuated by many challenges, some of which have momentarily taken the breath out of me. My last PET scan is a case in point….more pulmonary nodules, larger nodules, new lymph node involvement, new spots on my spine…..an all-round “bad” report. (Is there any such thing as a “bad” anything for the one who follows Christ? The Apostle Paul said “And we know that for those who love God, that is, for those who are called according to his purpose, all things are working together for good,” Rom 8:28, ISV. It doesn’t sound to me like there are “bad” things in the lives of those seeking to obey Him. Do I believe this? Do you?)
Lately I’ve been thinking about the matter of resilience, that power to get up and keep going. We all have events in life that knock our breath out momentarily…the foreclosure notice that finally came, the walking out of a spouse, the discovery that our child is on drugs, the termination notice at work, the IRS audit. This is life, and sometimes these horrific events occur. The issue is not that they occur; the issue is how we respond to them. And the key “proof” of resilience is joy.
As word of my latest PET scan spread, I got several emails from folk sharing how they had been so blessed to watch my resilience these past almost-4 years. They asked me about it. Allow me to copy/paste my response to one person:
As a matter of personal testimony, let me say that it takes definite choice to be resilient...it does not happen automatically. It happens when I stop to define Truth as it relates to my situation. It's like walking along a path, and stopping to check my surroundings and location, to re-affirm/or re-adjust my path before continuing to walk.
I also want to say that sometimes it takes separating myself from those who choose not to live by Truth....those who wallow in their emotions, those who are abusive (destructive), those who choose not to acknowledge Christ as Lord. These people do not understand the separation (because they beat to a different drum), but in order for me to serve Christ as He is worthy, it is necessary for me to "forsake" other relationships.
And lastly, it comes from continuously bowing before the Lord, asking the Spirit to dominate my thoughts, my emotions, my choices. This surrender has to be moment by moment; it's not an annual or monthly or even daily decision....although those “resolutions” help.
Conclusion.....orient to Truth, assess relationships, yield to Spirit.
I do long to see our Savior....but I also long to work for the Kingdom....mostly I value finishing well (whenever that it). Please pray to this end, as the Race gets more difficult.
In my own life, there are 3 things that contribute to this ability to quickly recover to a position of joy again. May I share them with you? Perhaps they will help you the next time your breath is knocked out by Life.
1. 1) Live according to Truth. The current “bad” situation is reality, but there is another Reality that is even more important, an eternal Reality. That Reality is the truth about my God. You see, at the bottom of my PET scan, in writing only a Christ-Follower could read, was this: Your Father is still on His throne, ruling over the affairs of your life with loving sovereignty. He has not abandoned you. He is accomplishing His purposes for you.
Resilience cannot happen if our feet, our thoughts, our choices are not oriented to Truth. Without that orientation, we are wandering in the woods, lost in the desert, confused in the jungle.
Truth is our North Star. It does not change. It is eternally situated. It is found in the Scriptures. And we cannot know this Truth without reading, studying, and embracing the Scriptures.
So I ask you again, is Romans 8:28 for real to you?
2. 2) Put aside things and relationships that are spiritually counter-productive. Can you imagine someone entering a marathon, knowing the long distance ahead of them, knowing the challenges to their endurance…and yet choosing to hold hands with a weakling, or choosing to eat a steak-and-baked-potato meal just before the race, or choosing to listen to music that saps the energy and distracts from the focus needed? Hebrews 12:1 comes on the heels of the testimonies of those marathoners who had completed the Race. “Therefore, having so vast a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, and throwing off everything that hinders us and especially the sin that so easily entangles us, let us keep running with endurance the race set before us, fixing our attention on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of the faith, who, in view of the joy set before him, endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
3. 3) Continuously yield to the Spirit’s control. It is the Spirit’s job to cause me to finish the Race. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything that I have told you.” Jesus spoke those words in John 14:26. The Spirit is our coach; He knows the Race; He knows us….and it is He that has been assigned to get us to the finish line.
But He will not over-ride our wills. Like all good coaches, he waits for us to willingly submit to His guidance and warnings.
This submission is a daily, hourly thing. It is a sort of “flowing” that with practice becomes almost subconscious. It is the instant check-thought when faced with a decision. It is a subterranean communion….sort of like husband and wife in the same house. They may be in different rooms, doing different work….but they are very much aware of each other, their obligation to each other, and their love for each other.
Galatians 5 discusses the power of the Spirit in our lives. When we yield to His control, then His fruit becomes evident in us….it is the super-natural ability to love, to have joy, to be meek, to be self-controlled, to be patient, etc. Everyone can do these things when the going is easy. But when we’re punched in the gut by Life, we realize that ONLY the Spirit can make these things to happen with His super-power. That’s why I’m always saying….it’s the JOY in difficulty that separates the believers from the non-believers.
So, my dear friend, resilience isn’t something that comes from pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, or “thinking positive,” or covering ourselves with support systems. Those things may do well for the little bumps in life….but for the gut-wrenching, breath-knocking, dizzying events, we need super-natural power. And that power is able to flow through us unhindered, when we anchor ourselves in Truth, when we streamline ourselves to focus on Jesus, and when we yield to the Spirit as our coach.
Only then can we abound in JOY.
Yours in the Race,
May 18, 2013