When our three kids were little, they all had their favorite characters or stories that inspired them. Our youngest, Kayla, loved Tweety Bird. Tweety was smart, persistent and knew how to stay one step ahead of Sylvester the cat.
Paige, our middle child, was a fan of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. She loved Dorothy, the girl who endured all kinds of trouble, until she could get back home. And of course, she was an animal lover, who couldn’t love Toto?
Finally, our oldest, Todd, was drawn to two characters of strength. First, he loved The Tasmanian Devil. He is an animal who spins and brings on chaos, but he is a survivor. But he also loved Tigger. Tigger first appeared in the book “The House at Pooh Corner”.
Most people will remember him from one of the Walt Disney movies. He even had his own movie, The Tigger Movie. As he sings in the movies, he’s got a top made of rubber and a bottom made of springs. And he loves to bounce. Tigger bounces for fun, to help others and he also tries to bounce away from his troubles and problems.
While he has a few missteps, he usually ends up on his feet. No matter what happens, he has a positive attitude and he recovers quickly. In all three of those characters my kids liked, there was persistence, endurance and resilience.
Resilience is defined as having the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty. In Latin, it translates as; having the ability to spring-back into shape, to be elastic, adaptable and to bounce back quickly. To be resilient is having the mindset that when you are knocked down by the adversities of life, – you just keep getting back up again as strong or stronger than before.
In 2002, a band called Chumbawamba had a hit song, and the chorus went, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you are never gonna keep me down.” He kind of sounds like a persistent boxer. In fact, that is why we love movies like Rocky, because the hero just won’t quit.
The truth is, we probably know people around us, that we admire, because they seem to bounce back, no matter what happens. They may experience an illness, a family tragedy, or a case of bad luck but it never seems to keep them down. Life can stretch them to their breaking point, but like a rubber band they always seem to snap back to their original shape.
On the flip side, most of us also know people like Eeyore, who always see the negative side of things. Hope evades them and good luck is never good enough.
Not only do they fall down but it’s almost impossible to help them back up. As Eeyore would say, “What’s the use, I’ll probably just fall down again, anyway.”
Some might say it’s all due to our personality; some folks see the glass as half full, others as half empty. While that may be somewhat true, we all have the ability to adapt and change. We were created that way by God.
Philippians 4:8 reads, “Whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”
And Romans 12:2 reads, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
While the world may tell us to stay down when we are beaten, God promises us good things and a brighter future, if we just hold on to him. (Jeremiah 29:11-14a) And even amid struggle, Jesus tells us in John 10:10, that he came to give us life abundant.
In other words, we were created to hold on, to believe in the promises of God, and to bounce back. The Bible is filled with stories of people who did just that.
Probably the story that comes into most people’s minds, is the life of Job. It is the epic story of extreme sorrow and suffering. Despite his faithfulness to God, Job goes through disaster after disaster including the loss of his children. Finally, his own health begins to fail. (Job Ch. 1&2)
That is when his wife said to him, “Are you still holding onto your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9) But he refuses to give up. Friends blame and dismiss him, but he still holds on. Finally, he gets into a discussion with God and God puts him in his place.
Job’s final words are these, “My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6) It sounds sad and hopeless…
Yet, in spite of everything that came before, Job prays for his friends and he never gives up. Chapter 42:10 finally reads, “The Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.”
Now, this story is not a prescription telling us that if we just hold on long enough, we will become happy and wealthy. Instead, it is about having the right frame of mind, no matter what happens. We do that, by putting our trust fully in God.
Another example of a person who understood how to bounce back is reflected in the life of Paul. As Saul, he had persecuted Christians and even stood by as they were martyred. On the road to Damascus, that all changed. Paul was knocked from his horse and he had a vision of Jesus asking, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4)
Following this incident, for 3 days, Saul was blind, and he refused to eat or drink anything. (Acts 9:9) Then a man called Ananias, who was called by the Lord, came to him, laid hands on him and his vision was healed. (Acts 9:17-18) After all he had been through, how could Saul go on? No one would ever forget his past. Most of us would just want to go off and hide but not Him.
Saul, who would later be re-named Paul, had a fire in his belly. In spite of everything, he believed in God’s greater good. That is how he was able to write, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
“Therefore”, he writes, “we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
Now, I would not want to be Paul with all that baggage, but you must admire his resilience. No matter the circumstances, he was going to thrive.
At one point, Paul boasts about his suffering; he explains, “Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) But I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the 40 lashes minus one.
“Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I even spent a night and a day in the open sea, and 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; and I have been cold and naked.”
Mind you, he calls these ‘light and momentary troubles’.
James, the brother of Jesus writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
Let me just say here, I am not trying to dismiss anyone’s pain and suffering. We were created, in the image of God, with all our emotions and feelings. Repeatedly, the Bible tells us just how God feels. He suffers, he mourns, he becomes angry and he is described as jealous. But above all he goes through, he forgives and loves.
In the 2006 movie Click, Adam Sandler plays Michael Newman, an overworked architect that neglects his family. An eccentric stranger gives him a magical remote control that can ‘fast forward’ him through all unpleasant and bad moments in his life.
At first, he thinks it is a wonderful gift until it moves him far ahead in an attempt to avoid every difficult moment in his life. Before long, a good portion of his life has passed, and he has missed many important events and experiences. In the end, he learns to enjoy every moment, good or bad.
An old Jewish proverb reads, “A person who falls and gets back up is much stronger than a person who never fell.
And Babe Ruth once said, “It is hard to beat a person who never gives up.”
In our world today, with the Corona Virus and the racial tension that is tearing us apart, it is easy to just give up and hide. So more than ever, we need folks who remain resilient. We need Christians who see God’s Promises and live with the hope we are called to profess. God is greater than the problems we see today. Jesus has gone ahead, and he has promised us life abundant, but we must hold fast.
Avoid self-pity, look beyond disappointment, give up resentments and refuse to be indecisive. Live the Resurrected Life, because of Jesus, the future has promise. He has overcome, so we can overcome. Believe it and live it.
Your assignment is…to make a list of the things that you feel hold you back. Then, pray over them, shred them and leave them with God forever. Refuse to live in the past, because today, we thrive!
“And all God’s People said, Amen”