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From Rev. Erik Buss, Assistant Pastor
September 22, 2020

This week we begin our fall Journey series called “Resilience: Practices and Inspirations to Help in Hard Times.” This seems particularly relevant as we deal with COVID-19, financial challenges, racial tensions, and a particularly contentious election cycle, to say nothing of multiple hurricanes and forest fires and the like.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” I have often pictured resilience as something like grit – the willingness to muscle through hard times, similar to the famous “man in the arena” in Teddy Roosevelt’s speech:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

This is certainly a big part of what resilience is: the will to get up and try again. Maybe you have felt that in these last six months of challenging times, where success can be the will to get up and try to get through one more day.

Interestingly, research about resilience is showing that, in addition to this grit, a different set of tools come into play: mindfulness, re-seeing our lives in constructive light, gratitude, compassion, and service to others. These practices are not so much about effort and striving as they are about allowing the Lord’s spiritual light and love to be present in our lives. These practices describe a flexible character. We might think of the proverbial willow that survives the storm while the less flexible oak does not, or like the flexible body that deals with physical hardship in ways that a strong but inflexible body may not.

For this series, we will be focusing on parts of the Joseph story. Joseph is a beautiful and powerful picture of resilience in that he adapts constructively to whatever happens. His mental and emotional flexibility that allows him to rise to positions of authority as a slave and a prisoner serve him well. And his ever-present willingness to invite the Lord into his thinking and action describe the deepest resilience practice. After all, the Lord is the source of life and hope.

I hope you will participate in this series through church services, joining a small group, or doing it on your own. I believe all of us could use more awareness of the Lord’s presence and the flexible, resilient hope and perspective His presence brings.

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