Authored by Kath Currie. Kath is a mum to two beautiful daughters on earth and a son and daughter in heaven. She is married to Steve, a school teacher, and lives in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. In her free time Kath loves to paint in watercolour and conduct deep dives into scripture. She is a volunteer leader in her local church’s women’s ministry and loves to encourage women into intimacy with their creator.
Maybe you’re asking; How do you choose life when your circumstances are telling you anything but? When you’re exhausted and you just don’t know if you’re strong enough. My friend, I hear you. I am no stranger to grief and loss, fear and doubt and disappointment. I don’t write about this topic because it’s a simple and straightforward concept, I write about it because this was life changing for me. I believe it can be for you too.KATH CURRIE
Resilience; The ability to remain or recover quickly
It’s a bit of a buzz word in our society right now and along with “Growth mindset” it is claimed to be the secret key to success in life. If we can turn failures into a lesson, then we can grow and change as a result. If we can view setbacks as opportunities, then we can thrive in the face of adversity. There have been hundreds of papers written on the topic and numerous Ted talks and science is sure they’ve uncovered a new secret to a successful life. Be resilient by having a growth mindset. Only it isn’t new, and it isn’t a secret. It also isn’t the whole story.
James, the brother of Jesus, writes in James 1:2-3; “Consider it pure joy when you face trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work in you, so that you may be mature, complete, not lacking in anything.”
He’s talking about resilience, or more specifically, building resilient faith. If resilience is the capacity to recover quickly, then resilient faith is faith that, when stretched by circumstances – not unlike an elastic band being pulled – returns quickly to its original state. However, there is a component that is lacking in the modern-day exploration of resilience, and that is an anchor. If you stretch an elastic band and you neglect to hold onto one end tightly, it will fly off. However, if the elastic band is anchored, when the deforming force is removed it will spring back to its original form, only not the same, because every time the elastic band is stretched, the position it returns to is enlarged upon its original capacity.
When James wrote this passage a mere 10 years or so after the death and resurrection of Jesus he is writing from the midst of the greatest trials of the early church. He and the other Christians were facing significant persecution, prosecution, and execution. When Jesus died, James hadn’t even believed that He was the son of God, but following his resurrection and subsequent encounters with Jesus, he received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and became a leader of the early Christian church. James is talking about trials such as seeing his innocent brother hung upon a cross, nails through his hands and feet, jeered at and mocked until he died. His family has been shamed and yet he asks the reader to consider it pure joy. Joy! Because he is anchored firmly in the hope of the resurrection, in the joy he experienced in his own transformation. He knows the value of holding onto the hope found in Christ, he knows the value of perseverance through trials. He knows what it means to have resilient faith
I love how “perseverance” is the active word in this passage. We are instructed to let perseverance finish its good work. When we persevere despite trials, something is happening beyond just surviving. Perseverance is at work to produce a change in us, a transformation towards maturity and wholeness.
And I want you to know that I recognise the difficulty inherent in holding on; in persevering. Sometimes it’s all you can do to hold onto that hope in the midst of darkness and despair. And maybe you’re in one of those seasons now, and you feel as though, perhaps your grip may be starting to slip as the darkness seems to persist endlessly and your resolve may feel like it is crumbling as your strength is waning.
If that’s you today, or tomorrow or three years down the track and the darkness just seems to be hanging around and you’re not sure if you have the ability to weather the storm. Or you’ve lost your anchor due to a great disappointment, or loss or overwhelming attack. You might be asking, where do you go from here? How do you navigate this seeming chasm between the triumphant Joy of Hope found in Jesus and the crushing loss you are experiencing?
Dr James Dobson calls this chasm between expectation and experience “The betrayal barrier”; named because this is what it can feel like. That God betrayed you, that He didn’t live up to his promise, that He didn’t see you safely through the trial. And the question becomes; Why is it that some people can break through this barrier, with seeming ease, and yet others remain languishing on the other side, try as they might, they cannot break through? Why can some people totally forgive God for their heartache or for their illness, their chronic pain or their loss and find comfort in his loving arms, whereas others are stuck in the pain for months, years or even lifetimes?
I believe it’s because there are three choices we can make when you come face to face with this barrier.
1. We can turn and walk away; we can decide that God and all His promises are false, not worth the trouble or further risk to our hearts. We can turn and walk away from our faith altogether.
2. We can reduce our expectations and thus shrink the gap between our experience and expectations; on the surface we carry on following Jesus but now we erect walls around our hearts to protect ourselves from future pain. We no longer trust our lives to Jesus – we stop dreaming and resign ourselves that God really wasn’t as Big as we first thought.
3. We can allow Jesus to bridge the gap on our behalf; we can face our experience and acknowledge Gods hand at work in our lives. We can “let perseverance finish is work in you” and lead us to a deeper relationship with God and therefore a life of no limits.
The first two are false options. This is where the enemy hides, stealing our future with God by whispering lies of betrayal and rejection. I urge you, if this has been your response, if you’ve closed your heart to God or you’ve limited your dreams to things you know you can accomplish in your own strength, When we do this, we are playing right into the enemy’s hands. John 10:10 says “The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life — life in all its fullness.”
Don’t throw your lot in with the Devil! Choose life! Jesus didn’t die on the cross and reconcile us with the Father, bring us fully into the family, allow us full and unrestricted access to God and the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we could live some kind of half-life of deferred dreams and low expectations. He came so that we would have life everlasting!
Maybe you’re asking; How do you choose life when your circumstances are telling you anything but? When you’re exhausted and you just don’t know if you’re strong enough. My friend, I hear you. I am no stranger to grief and loss, fear and doubt and disappointment. I don’t write about this topic because it’s a simple and straightforward concept, I write about it because this was life changing for me. I believe it can be for you too. So many of us have been told when we come to Christ that our troubles will be over, and I’m sorry but that simply is not the case. In John 16:33 Jesus specifically says the opposite “In this world you will have trouble, BUT TAKE HEART, I have overcome the world.”
I heard on the radio the other day a woman talking about how her trials throughout the whole Covid-19 season have strengthened her and I thought to myself, she’s ALMOST right. You see, trials aren’t here to make YOU stronger, but they will make your FAITH stronger. If you lean on God throughout every trial, you will increase your trust in His goodness. Your faith isn’t a free pass out of trials and trouble, the Bible clearly says we will face trials and persecution. But as your source of inner strength, your faith will see you through when you trust that God has good plans for you. Your faith stands in the gap between expectation and experience and gives you hope for the future. If we go back to our elastic band analogy, hope is the anchor that ensures faith hangs around.
Hebrews 6:19-20 says “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul. Firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctum behind the curtain where Jesus has entered on our behalf”.
What is this hope? It is the promise of the cross; that Jesus has once and forever bridged the gap between us and God. I love this quote by author Timothy Keller “the resurrection promises that pain can become untrue”. It’s not just a consolation prize, but a complete restoration into unimaginable degrees of glory joy and strength. This is the Hope we have, in the unchanging good character of God. It comes in the form of complete surrender, in trusting God. Because of Relationship! A deeply real and all-encompassing relationship with a true and loving Father!
So, if Resilient Faith is faith that is anchored in hope, and hope is our capacity to trust in the goodness of God, how then do we expand our capacity to trust in order to develop resilient faith? Especially during times of darkness or despair? Especially at times where the “pure joy” that James urges us to consider trials with, seems in mockery of our circumstances?
Next week in the second blog “Developing Resilient Faith: Part 2”, I will offer some practical steps to help you on your journey to develop a steadfast faith in Christ – no matter your circumstances.