Christian Resilience

Real talk: I have had the same set of plates for fourteen years, and I love them.

My mother encouraged me to put them on my wedding registry before I got married.  “I mean, of course you’ll have ‘nice plates’,” she said dismissively, “but I’m telling you, these are the ones you need for every other day of the week.  They will not break.”

I, indifferent to the qualities of various plates, listened to her and put the plates on my registry.  Fourteen years in, I have no regrets.

I have dropped these plates from calamitous heights.  I once watched one fall, bounce twice, and roll across the floor.  One slipped out of my hands once and flew like a Frisbee across the kitchen.  I cut vegetables on them with actual chef’s knives when my actual cutting board is dirty and they magically come out none the worse for wear.  They do not stain.  They do not crack or chip.

Resilience is a valuable quality.  It means dependable.  Long-lasting.  Indestructible.  And resilience is an important quality in the Christian life.

I’m not sure many people realize that right off the bat.  Confronted by portrayals in the media of Christians who faint at a missing “Merry Christmas” in a holiday card or have to break out the smelling salts when they hear a profanity, a lot of people have a view of Christians as delicate.  In need of coddling, cossetting, and special care.

But a lot of the Christians I know are made of steel, and although trials and struggles may bend them, they don’t break.

Ask Mrs. V from my former church, who in her eighties has witnessed the death of her beloved husband and her only son, who struggles with arthritis and gets by on only a small retirement fund, but who somehow gives generously, still plays piano for the church, and makes meals for people who are sick.

Ask my aunt, who has been diagnosed with kidney cancer and lung cancer, who was already dealing with diabetes and heart problems, and whose response to the phrase “you’re fighting cancer” is “I’m not fighting anything – God’s fighting it for me.”  She is living joyfully, day by day.

Ask the Christian doctors and nurses in developing countries who look power shortages, diminishing supplies, and governmental interference in the eye, grit their teeth, and keep right on working.

Ask believers in countries where Christianity is illegal, who still courageously show up to their house meetings and minister to others knowing full well that doing so could cost them not only their lives, but the lives of their family and friends.

Ask Christians who wrap wounds and treat bedsores, who soldier on through mind-bending tragedy, who walk into mission fields surrounded by sin and unbelief.

God’s people are tough.  And it’s worth remembering that we’re often tougher than we think we are.

I’m not exactly a hero in the face of opposition.  I am a worrier.  I like my life predictable and easy.  But this year has taught me that I’m not as easy to break as I thought.  As trials, irritations, and inconveniences have ramped up, I’ve found that God has enabled me to meet them one by one.  I am learning right now the truth I have long known in theory: we really will get as much as we need to meet the demands of what we must bear, even if those demands seem impossibly high.  We may not know how in advance, but in the moment, we get through because God gets us through.

Several years ago, I heard screaming and crying from outside my apartment window.  When I looked outside, I saw a woman on the ground clutching her shin and crying loudly.  I realized she was hurt somehow, and I ran outside.

As it turned out, she was calling out for help because she’d fallen down the stairs from her apartment and broken her leg.  I know this not because she said “I fell down the steps and broke my leg” but because she said to me tearfully “I fell down the steps” and, when I looked down, I saw the bone sticking out.

I can’t watch videos of gory injuries.  When they play the highlight reels of players getting injured on sports channels, I look away.  Makes me sick.  But in that moment, with her clearly in need of help, I saw this grotesque injury and was somehow unbothered.  Her husband called 911, and I sat with her and calmed her down and I prayed with her when she asked me to.

Later, I wondered, “How on earth did I not freak out at the sight of that injury?”  The answer, of course, is God was there and made it possible.  And He is there and it is possible in all things: you will get through the thing you didn’t think you could bear.  You will work through the conflict you don’t want to have to handle.  You will manage, somehow, and later you will look up bewildered, and think, “How did I do that?”

You didn’t.  God did.

So don’t fall victim to the myth that Christians will somehow dissolve around sin and the flaws and failures of the world like a vampire confronted with garlic.  God put us here and He made us to survive here.  With Him around, we’re tough.  We’re steel.  And yet for all of that, we’re made to be gentle, too: kind, compassionate, merciful, warm.

Isn’t it remarkable?

 

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