We all know resilience is a necessity for bouncing back from life’s challenges. And we can certainly rest assured that life presents some challenges. Resilience empowers us to meet those challenges with a base of positivity and to deal with challenge-based stresses more effectively.
Faith builds resilience by helping us to see our current circumstances through a long-view perspective. It grounds our perspectives in hope and keeps us from being weighed down by trying circumstances. So let’s explore some practices of faith which build up our powers of perspective and develop our personal resilience.
What is resilience?
Resilience represents our ability to continue in the midst of adversity. When the going gets tough, it is our resilience which enables us to keep pressing on. Maya Angelou offered a great perspective on resilience, saying “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” life ushers in a realization that we seldom control the circumstances around us. We can, however, control our reaction to these circumstances. Resilience is our personal power to pass through tough circumstances without being diminished by them.
This means that trauma, threats and stress do not keep us stuck in place. Certainly powerful negative events like these affect us, and generally not for the better. But these events need not simultaneously reduce our aspirations for the future, our abilities to imagine possibilities for our lives, nor our senses of personal worth. Resilience, buoyed by faith, provides a sense of hope and value.
How does faith impact resilience?
Faith is a catalyst for perspective as it demands we view the world from another point of view–one which is often grounded in hope. To be a person of faith means subscribing to the idea that there is a long-view plan for hope and goodness. Practitioners of the Christian faith base our hope in the expectation that a loving God and God’s people are moving the world towards complete love, peace and justice.Because most faith involves belief in a benevolent Creator, it implies that ultimate control does not belong in the hands of our detractors or our obstacles. Instead, ultimate control of the world falls into the hands of a force for good. While this belief can sometimes feel problematic in the midst of traumatic situations (“Why would God allow this to happen?”), it also offers hope in a longview perspective that our situations are redeemable and there is hope for better circumstances ahead.
In order to remain grounded in this hope, especially in the midst of trying circumstances, it would be beneficial to utilize practices that foster a deeper feeling of resilience.
Recommended practices for increased resilience
The American Psychological Association recommends three general practices for building a stronger sense of resilience: building your connections, fostering wellness, and finding purpose. These general practices are embedded in the life of faith, and many of the spiritual practices utilized to build a deeper sense of faith also inspire resilience.
Build your connections.
Our faith is practiced in community. The precepts of faith center on building communities of support and love. And often an invitation to participate in faith comes through the invitation to become a part of community. Those of us looking to strengthen our resilience may also entertain invitations to Christian community. This means we may consider taking part in one of the following group activities:
A group Bible study
An online meditation group
A Christian discussion group (on Discord or through a Facebook group, for example)
Regular shared worship experiences
Joining a church-sponsored service opportunity
Ask for help when needed
The American Psychological Association recommends taking care of your body as well as taking care of your mind through mindfulness practices in order to foster a greater sense of personal wellness. The following spiritual practices bring us into a place of mindfulness–and some work towards physical fitness as well:
Regularly practicing contemplative prayer (like this Centering Prayer, Ignatian Examen or trying out Breath Prayer)
Keeping a gratitude journal and writing down what we’re grateful for
Reading scripture and journaling thoughts
Purpose is something practiced more than it is something which is discovered. More often than not, we value that which we do. So our purpose is often felt when we’re engaged in activities. These activities lead towards connections with purpose:
Recording goals and our action steps toward them
Talking with a spiritual director or counselor
Resilience may sometimes be confused with self-reliance. But the two are not the same. Resilience need not be solitary. In fact, building resilience often involves connecting with others, and may also be aided by our asking for help when we need it. Feeling stuck when we’ve encountered traumatic circumstances does not mean that we do not have resilience. It may simply mean we need to speak with a counselor or therapist in order to engage our resilience.
If you’re looking for a group to connect with (and build up your resilience muscles), we certainly invite you to join in conversation on our Facebook group. See you there!
Written by Rev. Ryan Dunn, Minister of Online Engagement for Rethink Church and United Methodist Communications. He is a father, spouse, and spiritual pilgrim.