The life constantly exposes us to adverse environments and circumstances. The pressures and obstacles that life holds for us are inevitable and non-transferable. Like it or not, they will be before us, and we will have to face them. What differs the people is how they react to such adverse circumstances and environments. The positive psychology, a branch of psychology that has developed in the last two decades, has worked this issue and developed the concept of “resilience”, defined as the ability of person to deal with problems, overcome obstacles and resist the pressure of adverse situations, shock, stress etc. Although this concept to be presented as a novelty within modern psychology, the Gospel of Jesus already showed very clearly this concept of well-being of life. Nobody, more than Jesus, taught and lived so intensely this concept of “resilience”. The apostle Paul as a follower of the teachings of Jesus after his conversion lived strong pressures and adversities. In his second letter to the Corinthians he describes some of the hardships that he lived: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28, NIV). Paul could say with all authority that he knew in practice how was to live “resilience”. Despite too many adversities he concludes by writing the Romans: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, NIV). And it was from prison that he wrote the letter to the Philippians, in which he reveals the secret of his victories. Paul was arrested. Weighed upon her head a death sentence. He was spending needs; perhaps even starving. Still, declares to be happy! What’s your secret? Where he found such strength and courage? Even in such circumstance he says: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13, NIV). Words of Paul reveal us that resilience has steps that need to be trodden by those who want to live “content in any and every situation.”
Firstly, this is a learning experience – I learned, says the apostle Paul. This learning involves three areas of life: To manage emotions, to dominate impulses and to analyze the environment.
Managing emotions – My wise father always reminded me that the heart was placed below the head, to remind us that it can not dominate our actions. The prophet Jeremiah says: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV). Knowing well your heart and to know how it reacts to different situations is a key to achieving a happy life under any circumstances.
Dominating impulses – Never take decisions while has too much dust, wait dust settles, said my wise old dad. Impulsive reactions always lead us to the most difficult paths yet. Paul, in Galatians 5:23, shows that self-control is fruits of the Spirit of God, in us. In a sense, all sin against God and against our neighbor is associated with lack of self-control.
Analyzing the environment – When we identify precisely the causes of problems and adversity in the environment, we can put ourselves in a safer place rather than remain at risk. Jesus constantly moved himself, considering the environment around Si. The apostle John said: “After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him” (John 7:1, NIV). A good and thorough environmental analysis will give us a proper direction to follow in the face of adversity. Sometimes we need to step back; other times we need to seek another angle of approach. But this will only be possible with a careful consideration of the environment in which we live.
Secondly, it is an attitude – I live, the Apostle Paul explains. This attitude needs to be guided by three principles: empathy, optimism and connectivity.
Empathy – It is much easier when we put ourselves in others’ shoes, and we understand their reasons. Empathy is the ability to understand the emotional state of others (emotions and feelings) and thus somehow incorporate their emotions within us. In the wonderful Sermon on the Mount Jesus warns us: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophet” (Matthew 7:12, NIV). Paul concludes: “…Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn…(Romans 12:15, NIV).
Connectivity – The human being is a social being and in most cases the solutions of our adversity depends upon our ability to know how to use our network of relationships to solve them. Interdependence is a principle emphasized by Paul, when he compares the Church to the human body. It has several members with different functions, but all together for good to each other.
Optimism – Optimism cannot be a frivolous and inconsequential feeling. Optimism will only be effective and healthy when it is sustained in faith in Christ. So the Apostle Paul concludes: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Our optimism needs to be founded upon right foundation: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (João14: 12, NIV). The Christian optimism is not a thoughtless euphoria and empty. The Christian optimism feeds confidence that things can be different and that the future can be better when we trust in God. The Christian optimism is born of faith in the One who can do anything and that nothing is impossible for Him.
As Christians, like any other human being, we will go through adversities in life: from hunger to abundance; from humiliation to honor; from scarcity to abundance. But we can learn and keep us serenity and in control of all situation. The level of our resilience will be proportional to the degree of communion we have with God through Christ Jesus.
The fullness of this learning is only possible as a result of a deep and intimate relationship with God our Creator and with Christ, our Lord. Thus God bless us!