20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.[c]
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Job 1:20-22 NIV
Much has been written about the character traits that defined Job’s trying experience. As a man who could self-identify as righteous, he lived a life that reflected the best of God’s blessings. His earthly undoing at the hands of Satan represented the deepest type of loss that any person can suffer – death of family and loss of material comfort/wealth. He was brought to a junction of decision. He was faced with a dilemma that many of us encounter, namely the requirement to trust God when all that we placed security in has been suddenly removed and the choice to move on without closure and without divine explanation for our misfortune.
I have wondered how I would have responded, had I been in Job’s place. Many times, even though I recognize the importance of character-building challenge, I pray for such sudden calamity to pass my door. I do not want to experience the depth of grief, loss, and pain that this man underwent.
The passage above demonstrates a quality that is in modern circulation. This quality is resilience. How do people undergo similar hardship and respond so differently? Some people, placed in Job’s shoes, would have cavitated under the injustice, opacity, incongruence, and inconsistency of the apparent logic. How could I be such a good person and suffer such devastation? In fact, Job’s friends applied the logic in reverse. Clearly, he had done something so displeasing to God that he deserved this outcome, they argued.
Resilience within the modern context has been widely studied. As a general definition, resilience is the ability to integrate difficult experiences into self in a way that does not negatively affect our sense of hopefulness and anticipation. There seems to be broad agreement that an intrapsychic fortitude produces the type of situational resilience required during times of crisis. There is also broad agreement that this quality is developed through a mix of internal valuations, exposure to modeled behaviors and incremental opportunities that foster development (of the quality). Job had an internal perspective that allowed him to utter the statement above, a recognition of God’s sovereignty and an avoidance of attributing sudden outcomes to personal shortcomings. Pictorially, I see this as a solid and impervious core that existed in his soul that could not allow untruths (about God and him) to take root. No matter his circumstance, he operated from this core. Its immutable character allowed his outlook to result in the author testifying that “in all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” He didn’t arrive at this action randomly. It was the result of a painstaking effort, over time, to build this central core.
Is resilience innate or can it be developed? What types of circumstances and personal qualities influence resilient responses? I have studied resilience in people and there are some common factors that seem to always be present in those people who have developed some elasticity in their response to crises (listed in no particular order):
- They have developed an ability to adapt and can quickly identity things they can change.
- They have developed an ability to accept ambiguity and uncertainty as imperfect aspects of life.
- They have a strong sense of being connected to something bigger than themselves.
- They have developed an ability to be non-judgmental towards themselves and others.
- They have personal self-care rituals and disciplines that they continue in, even when in crisis.
- They have cultivated spaces with others in which they can be authentic and feel belonging.
- The practice of gratitude is a natural extension of themselves.
- They have developed mindfulness and with little effort can stay in the present.
- They have developed an ability to listen to themselves and others.
- They have developed an ability to feel deeply and allow themselves space and time to do so.
Each one of these items can be developed, with patience and effort. You can’t expect to respond resiliently to a hard thing in your life if you haven’t been preparing. How would you rate your resilience? If recent responses indicate that it is less than you desire, the good news is that you can get better.
Reach out to us at Jesus Lifts and we can share some free resources to get you on the road to a more resilient you!