Today, I am thankful for the miraculous resilience that I’ve experienced throughout 2016. This past year has been incredibly difficult on several fronts, but for reasons that I can only attribute to God and His sustaining grace, I’ve managed to bounce back in some surprising ways.
This thought occurred to me while I was stretching this afternoon – stretching is a daily (sometimes twice-daily) discipline that I’ve had to cultivate over the years, in response to recurring injury and pain. Some of the pain has had external origins – a car accident, a workplace injury, etc. – while I suspect that my other aches may be attributed to the natural aging process. Hear me: Due to a blend of good genes and God’s kindness, I neither look nor feel my age; however, if I fail to stretch each morning – and specifically, before and after I exercise – then my body feels uncomfortable and misaligned for the rest of the day.
My body’s default state seems to be one of tension, and I almost always feel better – both in mind and in muscle – after I’ve stretched. But the only way that I arrived at this level of insight was by pain: Learning how to cope with it; making important lifestyle adjustments (literally changing how I move and sit – I am conscious of my body position practically all of the time); and identifying new ways of doing, thinking, and being, so that my quality of life can be better and more meaningful than it was before the pain.
Resilience takes effort! It does not happen overnight, and, from my perspective, it isn’t a conscious process, either. I didn’t wake up today (or any other day, for that matter) and decide, “I’m going to be resilient!” Resilience seems to be an inevitable by-product of faith, trust, and good old-fashioned grit. As with my daily stretch routine, I am committed to having better health, so I make deliberate choices that align with this goal. Every day, my muscles tighten up, and every day, I take about 30 to 40 minutes to stretch before and after exercise. I do this as faithfully as I can, because I know that if I don’t, things will become even more uncomfortable.
In a way, I wonder if my own spiritual journey isn’t much the same. Left to my own devices, my inherent sin nature redirects my attention and energy back to selfishness and wanting to have my own way (pride). Each day, I attempt to counter this phenomenon by exploring some of the spiritual disciplines that help me to grow – reading the Bible, praying, and seeking wise counsel from people I trust. Of course, I could choose to go my own way and not do these things – and I have done this in the past – but over the course of time, I wonder what sort of spiritual atrophy would develop in my soul? Remember that it takes a lot of effort to maintain good physical health, but it doesn’t take much inactivity for regression to set in. Doesn’t the same principle hold true in our spiritual lives?
There have been days when I haven’t stretched. I’ve been able to make it through the day, even though I’ve had some pain and stiffness. It is possible to make it through, but I can only go about a day or so, and even then I am quite uncomfortable. In the same vein, I can do my own thing spiritually for a little while, but if I veer off for too long, I do so to my own detriment. After all, this world is a dangerous place, and the enemy of my soul is smart, has lots of resources, and is relentless. Talk about committed!
Put another way, is the enemy of my soul more committed to his spiritual disciplines than I am to mine? In my own strength, I am powerless to defeat him. However, nothing is impossible with Jesus, and no one and no thing is stronger than He is! Of course, He does ask me to do my part; when things get hard, I know that He is with me, giving me the strength needed to persevere during difficult times. And when the tough times pass and it seems like I’m coming out of the valley, I can look back and testify, “By God’s grace, I am stronger than I was even a few months ago. I am more resilient than I ever have been. And while life certainly hasn’t been easy, I can see how God is weaving everything together so that I am growing increasingly dependent upon Him.”
Thank You, Jesus, for resilience.
Here is my prayer for today: Dear Lord, thank You for giving me the strength and determination to persevere during difficult times. There have been so many situations when I felt overwhelmed and was at a loss about what my next step should be, and I didn’t think that I would be able to make it. However, I can look back on those times and see that my view of You has expanded far more than I ever could’ve imagined. My mustard seed-sized faith may look small in my eyes, but You have shown me that my thoughts about You – Your heart, Your character, and Your power – have expanded, and are certainly far greater than my circumstances. Thank You also, Jesus, for modeling resilience, strength, and discipline when You walked the earth. Each day, may I focus my attention on You, and do all that I can to follow Your example. In Your name I pray, Amen.