Keeping an optimistic and positive attitude is a huge challenge during these days when society is increasingly polarized and when so much adversity and suffering streams through our devices and is broadcast through news outlets. Adversity and suffering of all kinds are not a choice and nobody is exempt from them. We cannot choose the trials that we will face but we can choose whether or not we are going to walk with Christ through them.
In this postmodern era where relativism increasingly impinges on our most dearly held beliefs, the norm has become attack, from verbal wars of words to the tragic gun violence that has become commonplace.
As Christians in the world today, resilience is needed now more than ever. Resilience is the ability to adapt to stresses, tragedy, crises or other life-altering changes. To be resilient is to bounce back and move on.
As people of faith, we do not wear rose colored glasses to escape our situation or view the world or events other than what they are. Rather, we search for truth and pattern our life on the life of Christ who showed us how to move on as we face a spectrum of difficulties from the most trivial to the most severe.
Deep faith in Jesus Christ is one of the keys to resiliency. Moments of crisis and tragedy expose our vulnerability, and teach us that when we have nothing left, we still have God. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, St. Paul tells us, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."
Life coach, motivational speaker and behavioral scientist Steve Maraboli once said, "Life doesn't get easier or more forgiving. We get stronger and more resilient." Throughout history, wisdom figures have taught that with God, it is possible to walk gracefully through the messiness that life serves up. For Christians, the greatest teacher is Jesus Christ.
What does the life of Jesus say to us about resiliency? First Jesus teaches face challenges with acceptance and honesty. During the agony in the garden at Gethsemane, he said, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" (Mt. 26:38), and "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Mt 26:39). Jesus faced his own suffering head on articulating his deepest pain and most profound fear in truthful, authentic prayer to the Father.
Throughout the Gospel, Jesus managed his emotions and was able to stay calm when he was assailed by critics and non-believers. Jesus dealt with hurt, anger, unfair criticism and a gamut of negative emotions on more than one occasion. He endorsed anger as a catalyst for change and operating from a place of truth and love, demonstrated strength as he responded to others in uncomfortable situations.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus reminds us that we're not meant to remain stuck in the troubles we encounter, even the enduring ones. In John 10:10, Jesus says, "I have come that you might have life and have it to the full." Deep faith, honesty and acceptance as well as a healthy monitoring of our emotions are some keys to resiliency.
Part two of "Keys to Resiliency" will appear in the August issue of the Western New York Catholic.