Surviving the Unthinkable - "Christian" Resilience

“Trauma, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.” – George Everly Jr., John Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness

Bombings, shootings, car accidents, freak accidents, tornadoes, hurricanes, mudslides – in a single moment of time, the journey on the path of life suddenly plunges us over the cliff into a dark abyss of timelessness where we have split-second choices that occur in slow-motion and affect the future course. 

At first, we feel helpless, out-of-control.  Some of us panic, others go into denial, some take action and give orders, and others are paralyzed.  These reactions can be normal, even good, to get us through the crisis.  Or they can bring us to our demise. 

After the crisis, we may be flooded with emotions or become catatonic, not wanting to feel at all.  Bouncing back is a process.  Resiliency is the ability to cope, to adapt to the trauma or stress, and to become stronger as a result.

According to Amanda Ripley, award-winning journalist for Time magazine, people who have resilience tend to also have three underlying advantages:
  1. A belief that they can influence life events
  2. A tendency to find meaningful purpose in life’s turmoil
  3. A conviction that they can learn from both positive and negative experiences.1
She claims that these beliefs act as a sort of buffer, cushioning the blow of any given disaster.  Dangers seem more manageable to these types of people, and they perform better during a crisis as a result.

If this worldview leads to resilience, what leads to the worldview?  Ripley points out that it is not an easy answer.  It’s not necessarily the yoga-practicing Buddhists.  Rather, it is people who have an abundance of confidence.    It is people who have a sense of purpose.  Surprisingly, it is people who might be perceived as annoying, self-absorbed or arrogant.

As a follower of Christ, God gives us a built-in sense of resiliency that grows with our faith: 
  1.  We know that God works through us to influence life events.  God hears our prayers, and we can trust the outcome to Him regardless of how it pans out.
  2.  Life’s turmoils may seem random, cruel, and senseless, but God can turn something apparently senseless into something meaningful, to fulfill something bigger that we currently cannot see or understand.
  3. Because we know that God works all things together for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), we know with conviction that God teaches us through both positive and negative experiences to transform us to become more like Jesus . 
Our resiliency may look different from the world’s resiliency.  It’s not arrogance.  It’s recognition of our weakness and our need for Jesus for every breath that we can live the life He purposes for us. We are God-absorbed, not self-absorbed.  

Our resiliency comes through faith, not through our inner strength.   Our resilience comes from leaning hard on God, depending on Him, seeking Him, relying on Him for strength, because we know that in our weakness, He makes us strong.

1Amanda Ripley, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why, Crown Publishers: New York, 2008, pages 91-92.

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