BECKY KIERN | CONTRIBUTOR
Think of your favorite book, film, or TV series: if there were no conflicts or obstacles to overcome, what would remain of the story? Would we know the name Harry Potter if there were no curse to battle; Jane Bennett if there was no pride (or is prejudice her vice, I can never remember) to overcome; Frodo without an evil ring to destroy, or Cinderella without a cruel step-family from which to escape?
Conflict may be the driving force for story development, but the best stories are not simply fables of conflict avoidance. What pulls on our heart strings is the resilience and growth these beloved characters undergo in response to the adversities they face. Will Luke Skywalker give into his father and the power of the Dark Side? Will Elsa choose to stay isolated in her ice castle or will she choose to love and be loved by her sister? Conflict may provide the impetus for a story, but the resilience of a character is what teaches us to have courage, value friendship, or to love another.
While it is entertaining to watch conflict arise, unfold, and resolve over the course of a couple hours on screen, navigating conflict in our own lives is often much less amusing. Resilience may help us recover from unforeseen obstacles, but it doesn’t free us from experiencing conflict or the negative emotions they bring. Even the most mature person feels grief or anger after an argument with a loved one, the loss of a job, a poor medical diagnosis is received, or a goal is thwarted. If conflict is what drives change, resilience is what helps us grow into the people who can cope with and navigate through those changes.
Our favorite stories move us because we journey alongside characters as they grow and mature until their conflict is resolved. And when we know the end of their story we can put the book down or turn off the TV in peace knowing they are alright. For the Christian, this is the true reality of our story too. The adversity we face may force us to grow or change, but when we know God’s story we know the end of our story too. Creation was marred by mankind’s Rebellion, it was Redeemed through His Son Jesus Christ and now we await the Lord’s promised Restoration of all things. Therefore, our true source of resilient hope is found not primarily in our own abilities, but in the assurances of God’s steadfast faithfulness to restore His ransomed people to everlasting joy (Isa 35:10, 51:11, 65:19, and Rev 21:1-8).
Remember the Promise
So, when adversity threatens to pull you under, remember the Lord’s promise of protection.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
When suffering seems greater than justice, remember our Savior’s promise of peace.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
When it feels like you have lost your happiness or hope, remember you can never lose the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness towards you.
“my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, ‘My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the LORD.’
Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
‘The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.’”
Christ-centered resilience is the courage to look at the adversities which come your way—the tyrannical dictators, global pandemics, relational conflict, racism, job loss, or failing health—and say, I may not understand the obstacle of the moment, but my hope rests in the One who does (Romans 8:28).
Resting in the Arms of the Lord
A favorite story of mine is Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. While this story is her most favorite (for good reason) Ms. ten Boom also wrote many other books and articles about the adversity she faced throughout her life. Reflecting back on her time in a Nazi concentration camp, she wrote, “The Lord taught me through my prison experiences that for a child of God, the pit can be very deep, but always deeper are the everlasting arms of our Lord.” In her writing, Corrie ten Boom is honest about the sorrow, grief, and lament she experienced. More than once she named the evil of what she saw and experienced, but her resilient wisdom, cultivated over the course of a lifetime, enabled her to trust in God’s steadfast love. Her resilient hope came from resting in the everlasting arms of her Father.
May our resilient hope come from resting in the arms of the same loving Father, the One who has called us by name, who has overcome the evil of this world, and who delights in providing us with new mercies every morning.
About the Author:
Becky Kiern is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary who has served in staff and lay leadership roles in multiple churches. Currently living in Nashville, TN, she enjoys teaching the Bible at retreats and conferences, developing church leadership and writing Bible study curriculum. She is the author of Our Light and Life: Identity in the Claims of Christ. Her other works include contributions to Co-Laborers, Co-Heirs: A Family Conversation, Christ in the Time of Corona and Beneath the Cross of Jesus: Lenten Reflections. Becky has also been an adult cardiology RN for nearly 15 years. Above all her favorite roles are that of friend, sister, and auntie.