Headlines from First Thoughts

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Perseverance or Resilience

I love perseverance. I grew up on it. You buckle down, you work hard, you keep going. You overcome the enemies. You do as Hebrews suggests, "throw off what hinders you" and run the race. Perseverance works when you are in control of your problems and when you have the power to get rid of what oppresses you.

But what if you don't? What if the weight on your back is placed there by an oppressive boss, neighbor, family member or disease? What if you can't control what's hurting you. That's where resilience comes in. Little discussed in scripture, but often used, resilience is the quality of "bending but not breaking," of bouncing back. Resilience feels like those spongy balls that you squeeze to exercise hand muscles. They take their original shape after you squeeze tightly.

The Psalms sing of resilience as much as perseverance. In Psalm 129, for instance, the Psalmist speaks of a time when the oppressors were on the backs of the people with little hope of release. But somehow, some way, the Lord cut the cords. The people bounced back with new hope and trust in this saving God. Resilience is the quality we need when we're not sure they're going to get off our backs. Or when the work breaks our backs so much that only God can stop it and no amount of perseverance can change it.

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