Major publications, reflecting on 2020, 2021, and 2022, have almost unanimously agreed that one of the primary concepts required for success is resilience. Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, LinkedIn, and Psychology Today all labeled "Resilience" as the word of the year.
The concept isn't only a trend in mainstream media. Google Trends is a website that allows researchers to see what people are searching online worldwide and using what keywords. The peak word of September 2020? Resilience.
In the corporate world, Deloitte Consulting published a study on "Resilient Organizations." The Harvard Business Review released multiple articles on "Secrets to Building Resilience." Practicing resilience is an art and science. But what does the word truly mean?
Defining Resilience in the Bible
The word resilience comes from the scientific discipline of physics. The word originates from two Latin words.
• Re - Meaning "back."
• Salire - Meaning "to jump or leap."
So, the literal definition of the word resilient means "to bounce back." The word is associated with withstanding shock, returning to form, maintaining strength, and not giving up. Sounds like something we'd all need in a battle, right?
The Bible describes resilience in battle terms:
Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again…(Proverbs 24:16)
In a grad school class I attended, the professor described resilience as a "spiritual immune system." To live healthy lives on the journey into the promises of God, God must build within us an ability to "bounce back." This is the power of spiritual resilience.
Spiritual Resilience Comes Through Renewal
Israel would have to demonstrate resilience during the arduous season of fighting for the Promised Land. These battles were not without mistakes, setbacks, and errors. Thankfully, God provides us with opportunities for fresh starts. The renewal of their covenants with God allowed Israel to continue bouncing back.
The prophet Isaiah ties together the idea of renewal and resilience. How do we bounce back after falling?
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:30-31)
Secular research confirms this idea. After setbacks, we can renew our resilience by exploring three simple ideas: I have, I am, and I can.
• I have - When we face setbacks, we remember we have promises from God, who is working on our behalf.
• I am - Challenges and trials force us to face misunderstandings regarding our identity in Christ. Where do we need to grow? Where do we need to surrender? Where do we need to revisit the power of the Gospel?
• I can - Our fresh reliance on Jesus reminds us that we "can" do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
This is how hope in the Lord renews our strength and forms resilience in us during life's battles. Although life may be very difficult at times, God promises He will give you the strength to bounce back. Jesus said that — "a bruised reed he will not break" (Matthew 12:20). When you find yourself under extraordinary pressure, ask yourself these three questions:
• What do "I have?" What resources do I have spiritually, relationally, and otherwise?
• Who "am I?" What is my identity in Christ, and how does that determine my response in this situation?
• What "can" I do? Where can I exercise my free will and take a step of faith in this situation?
How to Grow in Biblical Resilience
We can face setbacks in many areas of life. The 2020s have been a perfect storm of health, political, cultural, economic, and societal challenges knocking at our doors. In this section, we’ll look at Biblical principles for rising to the occasion, no matter what life throws at us.
The Stanford Center for Longevity defines financial resilience as “the ability to withstand unexpected, adverse shocks that impact one’s income or assets.” Following the financial wisdom of the Bible will prepare you for unexpected shocks to your budget and income. Many of us would do well to follow the advice of church leader John Wesley: “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”
• Tithing - Tithing, or giving 10% of your income as an act of worship, invites the supernatural power of God into your financial life (Malachi 3:18-12).
• Saving - God commanded Joseph to “store up” for a time of famine (Genesis 41:56). Rather than spending all your income, set aside some each month for a rainy day. If you happen to be someone that has benefited from PPP loans or other recent stimuli during the COVID crisis, save or invest this extra money. Saving also requires us to live within our means, a very countercultural practice in today’s culture of debt.
• Working - Dale Carnegie, in his seminal work How to Make Friends and Influence People, commanded those who desired success to “go the extra mile.” Be a person at work that goes the extra mile. Put in extra hours, be a bold witness for Christ, and apply for promotions. Don’t settle. Instead, be a person that contends for the success of your family and your employer. You want to be like Joseph, who brought success to every environment where he worked — even when he was in prison!
Resilience and Relationships
Healthy relationships build our capacity to withstand trials. Research has proved this true time and time again, even from a young age. The time to build a supportive network in your life is now, not when you are in crisis. As the famous song says, “We all need somebody to lean on.”
The best way to develop resilience in your relationships is to clarify to someone what they mean to you. Many of us go our entire lives without telling the people nearest to us how much we need them, desire to grow with them, and want to see them thrive.
Consider having a low-pressure but powerful conversation with a close friend or family member soon. Let him or her know that:
• You trust them and appreciate who they are
• You want them in your life and highly value your connection with them
• They can rely on you if they ever need anything
If there is a specific area where you need help from a friend or family member, the biggest barrier to you receiving that help might be the courage to ask. Setting the groundwork by defining your relationships makes that scary conversation much easier when times are tough.
Recently, news articles began to refer to a phenomenon called “immunity debt.” Americans today are more susceptible to illness than ever before due to the combination of new diseases, increased stress, and worse-than-ever health habits.
Too many adults require a health crisis to focus on healthy habits involving rest, sleep, diet, and exercise. Choose to be one of the few people who stewards their bodies well and develops healthy habits now that contribute to vigor and longevity.
Every person is on a unique health journey. Don’t allow comparison to force idealistic standards upon you. Instead, be a person that prays about your health decisions. Make wise decisions with a heart of faith.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
One Biblical piece of health advice is essential to building resilience: The Sabbath. The link between illness and stress has been well-established in many medical publications. Many people feel they cannot afford to take a day outside the rat race weekly to focus on family life, recreation, and spirituality. Perhaps a better way to look at the Sabbath is, “can we afford not to?”
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20:8)
A Final Note on Resilience
Ultimately, resilience is built in a mindset. The great leaders of history whose lives we admire developed resilient mindsets. The people of faith we admire from the Bible were not perfect, but forged inner fortitude. Take your thoughts captive as you go through your daily life (1 Corinthians 10:5). Repeated patterns of thought shape our daily lives, our identities, and our ability to respond to God. Don’t forget — you have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)!