With all the loss I have experienced in the past several months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the word resilience. Of the top 5 stressors in life, I can check off the top 3 that have occurred in my life in the past two months. The losses came quickly: My sister died, Kevin and I divorced, and my dog was put down. As all this was unfolding, I was selling a house and buying a house and then moving out of the one house and moving into the other.
- the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
- ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
I can relate to being bent, compressed and stretched to the point that I have often asked myself this question, “How do I get back to the heart that believed in the impossible and dared to dream?” According to this definition, I can return to that fearless, childlike heart if I have a mind and spirit that is elastic and buoyant rather than rigid and heavy. In other words, I need to be resilient. My intent in this blog post is to share the true power source of resiliency.
This past year I read three memoirs about dealing with death. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandburg and Adam Grant; The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion; When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. What struck me after reading each of these books is that God and heaven were not considered as they faced either their own death or the death of their loved ones. This makes me incredibly sad to know that a person lives and dies without knowing and experiencing the comfort and love that comes from God, the Holy Spirit and His inspired Word.
When I think of resilience, I don’t think of endurance and gutting it out. Instead, what comes to mind is recharging, refreshing and refocusing, and the power source is God’s word. I do not possess within myself the ability to soar above adversity. I need the wisdom and power of God that is revealed in the Bible to be resilient in loss and setbacks.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple
I do believe that God’s word is perfect and trustworthy and can refresh my soul. To refresh is to energize, rejuvenate, invigorate and enliven.
God’s word has infused hope into my broken heart in the middle of all my losses. In the past several weeks I have cried and said to God, “My heart is broken – can you please fix it? Father, I can’t pick up the phone and talk to my sister anymore, I’m estranged from the man I was married to for 24 years, and I don’t have my dog, Mei Mei, waking me up everyone morning.”
On December 13th I walked away from my home in Bend and said goodbye to Kevin, and since then I have spent the past 28 days in four cities and six places as I waited to move into my new home in Medford, Oregon. Some of my time was spent in the homes of Christians and some of my time was spent in Airbnb’s.
The last place I stayed in for six nights was a 1920’s Airbnb duplex in downtown Medford. On the first day I was in the Airbnb, I called the owner and asked her why there were so many men walking past the duplex with backpacks. Apparently, I didn’t read the fine print on the website that just down the street was a homeless mission. The owner said to me, “Keep your car doors locked as well as the door to the apartment, and don’t worry about the men – they will not bother you, and by the way, the two back windows are cracked and covered with plastic and I’m having someone coming over today to give me a quote.” I hung up and thought, “Well she seems very unconcerned about my dangerous situation, so I guess I shouldn’t be so concerned also?”
The first night was scary, lonely and sad for me, but then the next day a car from California pulled up with snow boards tied to the top of the car roof, and the young travelers opened the lock box to the apartment next to me. Then I realized I needed to chill and consider this Airbnb a cool thing to do. Hotels are so overrated. So, in that moment I decided to be flexible and elastic in this situation and enjoy it.
I think my character toughened up quite a bit during those 6 nights in this Airbnb. I was almost comfortable to be there by the last night.
During the stay in this Airbnb, I was able to spend time with my dear friend, Jen Riggins. She was my next-door neighbor in Fountain Valley, California and she and her dad recently moved to Medford. We discovered we live 3 miles from each other in Medford.
Last Saturday, Jen and I went to Ashland to eat breakfast, and as we were looking for parking we passed a herd of deer standing on the sidewalk and street. I was taken back how still they stood. They looked like they were on high alert and ready to spring away together at a split-second notice. When I think of resilience I think of these deer and this verse.
Habakkuk 3:19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
To have feet like a deer is to be agile and quick footed, and this ability is given to me by God. I cannot make my feet like a deer on my own. For the Lord to be my strength, and for my feet to be like a deer I must be a student of the Bible. Reading a verse or two occasionally or only when I’m feeling down and depressed isn’t going to train my feet to tread on the heights.
Often we want the help and strength from God but won’t put in the time and effort to allow the Bible to transform our thinking.
Jesus warns us that the storms of life are going to come. None of us are exempt from a very hard hit. He also warns us that to withstand the storms in life with resilience we need to not only hear His words but put them into practice.
Luke 6:46-49 The Wise and Foolish Builders
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed, and its destruction was complete.”
The man who dug down deep and laid his foundation on the rock was willing to put in the work to prepare for any potential future storms. When I read this verse, I take heed that just reading the Bible for comfort isn’t going to cut it when I face times of trouble. I’m going to have to read it with the intent to do what it says.
I truly believe that all the years I have cultivated my relationship with God is why I am able to be resilient during this time of loss in my life. Yes, I am grieving and crying and sad, but I also have resilience and strength that comes from the Lord.
Proverbs 14:10 says, “If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength!”
To falter is to weaken, fade, waver and hesitate. I don’t see the deer hesitant. They stand alert and ready. I don’t want to weaken and fade during times of loss. I want to tread on the heights. I want the strength that comes only from the Lord.
What about you? Are you being a student of the Bible? Are you obeying Jesus’s words? Are you ready for the storms of life that are sure to come? Are you recharging your soul with God’s Word?