My knowledge of boat parts is limited, but this much I know: throw an outboard motor in the water; it will sink. Throw a propeller in the water; it, too, will plunge to the bottom. So will seats, cleats, and other parts. But when they are assembled together on a strong hull, the boat floats.
Similarly, our lives are comprised of a variety of experiences: some heavy and hurtful, others light and joyful. When properly assembled as a whole, they create a life that floats, and one that’s headed on a course toward worthwhile purpose.
Proper assembly of negative as well as positive events requires the trait of resiliency—the ability to press on through setbacks again and again.
Do those words, press on, sound familiar? The great missionary-adventurer, Paul, said he pressed on toward the goal of becoming what God intended for him (Philippians 4:12-14). Paul is a worthy case-study for resiliency.
(The apostle Paul by Rembrandt)
He suffered plenty of hurt, disappointment, and failure. For example, Paul was:
- stoned (Acts 14:19),
- flogged and imprisoned (Acts 16:23),
- unjustly charged with treason (Acts 18:13),
- nearly killed on at least several occasions (Acts 21:30-31), and
- rejected by many, even after brilliantly preaching about God and his Son, Jesus (Acts 17:16-34).
How do you bounce back from such defeats? Researchers have identified the following ways to cultivate resiliency:
- Get real.
No one sails through life problem-free. Accept the reality that troubles will come, then apply those strategies that provide relief, strategies such as: exercise and proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, laughter, and meaningful activity, including acts of kindness each day.
- Get hope.
Be watchful for God’s blessings in spite of the circumstances, and thank him for his loving attention. Gratitude does indeed transform attitudes.
Find fresh strength in God’s Word, especially in his promises and assurance of his faithfulness to keep those promises (Romans 15:4; Psalm 145:13; 1 Corinthians 1:9).
We can ask God to help us set new, worthwhile goals, then look forward to the day when those goals will be met.
Researchers have noted that resilient people do not strive for riches, fame, power, or recognition. Instead they are focused on their legacies—what contributions their lives will make to those around them. Hope in God—in all circumstances—is in itself an invaluable legacy.
- Get in community with other Christians—not just by being present, but by actively participating.
Years ago while I was dealing with an ongoing disappointment, Sunday morning worship on the praise team and mid-week rehearsals did much to recharge my spirit. (Not that all was smooth sailing in between! I still struggled to stay on an even keel; but with God’s help I didn’t stop trying.)
In addition, when we contribute hope to others through listening and encouragement, we find our own outlook much improved.
* * *
A boat that floats is not built by just lining up the various parts in the boatyard. It requires the hands and expertise of a master boat builder, to craft a skiff of beauty, function, and purpose.
A satisfying, meaningful life cannot be achieved by mere acceptance of the various events in our lives. It requires the hands and expertise of the Master. He takes all of it—the delightful and the demoralizing—to craft a life of beauty, function, and purpose.
(The boat metaphor idea came from Ralph W. Sockman, author of The Higher Happiness (1950).