This week at work, I went to a lunchtime seminar where the president of our employee assistance program spoke about resiliency, and its importance in leading a long and fulfilling life. He presented findings from a study he previously completed where he observed 500 cancer patients over a period of time. He found that patients who had the following characteristics of resiliency lived longer than those who lacked such traits:
- Have a positive outlook
- Commit to a high physical well-being
- Be a good communicator
- Be a good listener
- Have a work/life balance
- Have close connections with others in your life
- Commit to a personal value or spiritual position
- Have great interpersonal skills and the capacity to negotiate conflict
- Have a sense of humor
- Be willing to engage in creative thinking and risk-taking
- Have excellent problem-solving skills
Indeed, the above characteristics are good ones to have, but what struck me more was that many, if not all of these things, stem from concepts or attributes that God wants us to possess and instructs us about in scripture. God calls us to maintain unity with the body of Christ and remain in community with each other, to speak words of truth in love to one another, and to take care of our bodies as they are holy temples He created in His image. He wants us to experience things in moderation so that we might lead healthy and fruitful lives.
However, when the speaker got to the point about having meaning or value in one’s life, he stated that “Some people find their meaning in Jesus Christ, but this meaning doesn’t necessarily have to come from something spiritual”.
While I was genuinely surprised to hear him mention Jesus by name in the workplace, the second half of his sentence reinforced the presence of the secular society in which we live. Man believes that he will have a successful life if he can achieve the ideals that he deems significant, and he will always try to create his own laws, wisdom, and happiness. It reminded me that we live in a fallen world where people want to govern themselves independent of a higher being. But as Christians, we know that when we try to take God out of the equation and fix our problems on our own, we will stumble and fall flat on the ground. We can go about our lives trying to live out our own ideals with varying levels of success, but we will never find true fulfillment until we acknowledge the Lord as Savior, the One who created us and gave us our purpose.
The other part of the talk that I found particularly interesting was an experiment the speaker used to demonstrate another two components of resiliency. We were shown a long combination of letters, and the speaker told us to remove with our eyes a certain amount of letters and identify the well-known word that remained. We all sat there in silence for about 30 seconds, until the speaker interjected with:
“I’ve done this experiment with 7 year old kids who have already answered this in the time it’s taken you to even begin looking at the letters. They are more cognitive, their minds are more elastic.”
The speaker was trying to illustrate the importance of engaging in creative thinking and risk-taking, and having excellent problem-solving skills. His point was that a child’s mind has no preconceived notions, and is therefore easily flexible to interpret ideas or concepts for what they are without letting outside influences get in the way. As a church, I think we also need to be aware of this. We can become weary from the adversities that befall us in life, and we can let all of the outside “things” and “stuff” we pick up along the way inhibit our ability to cling to the Lord with our whole being. God wants us to have faith like a child, to throw all of our doubts and concerns to the wind and to fall at His feet in complete surrender. The more we surrender to the Lord, the more resilient we become, and the more resilient we are, the more capacity we have to play our part in building up the church.
It is crucial that we do not forget where our resiliency comes from. For not only do we lack true resiliency without God, we are nothing at all without God. The Lord is our resiliency. He is our rock, our fortress, our strength, and our shield.
“Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.” (How Firm a Foundation, John Rippon, 1787).