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How To Nurture a Resilient Heart

Author Josh Squires tells of a grueling multi-day hike that’s part of Army Mountain Warfare School training. It requires slogging up a mountain through ten-foot snowbanks:

On the morning of the infamous march, a drill instructor spoke to the soldiers. … “If you want to quit, look at the top of the mountain.” He went on, “But if you want to make it through, then just find the closest tree and tell yourself, ‘I’m going to make it to that next tree and then reevaluate.’ And then when you get to that tree, do the same thing again, finding the next closest tree. If you’ll do that, tree by tree, soon enough you’ll find yourself at the top of the mountain.” (Lord, Help Me Endure One More Day)

There’s a difference between toughing it out and true resilience

You might physically survive that first hour of soul-splitting loss. But a grin-and-bear-it stance won’t sustain your soul when that hour turns into days, months … a lifetime of trekking up a menacing mountain.

Resilience isn’t about bouncing back or powering through. It’s not about denying the depth of pain and its ongoing impact. Instead, it’s about learning from and growing throughadversity — about reevaluating with each new anguish.

Resilience is about facing the reality of our struggle and looking to our Savior — the One who shares in both our suffering and our comfort. We pray for wisdom to learn, strength to persevere, humbleness to keep our integrity, and hope for renewed purpose (Romans 5:3-5).

As a saint of God, my attitude toward sorrow and difficulty should not be to ask that they be prevented, but to ask that God protect me so that I may remain what He created me to be, in spite of all my fires of sorrow. ~ Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Keys to build resilience

Hardship and grief threaten everyone. How can you nurture resilience without becoming overwhelmed or living in denial?

  • Be self-aware. Admit to yourself and others what’s really going on and how it’s affecting you. Take care of yourself spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. (When you can’t meet face-to-face with your support system, stay in touch other ways.)
  • Learn from experience. Change is inevitable. Use skills you gained from past rough patches to prepare for future challenges. No, you can’t be ready for everything. But remembering how God has met your needs before can calm your anxiety about the future.
  • Live with hope. When we call on God in days of trouble, He will answer, even when we don’t know how (Psalm 86:7). Pursue each day in ways that redirect your worries and reignite your worship. “Fear not tomorrows, child of the King, trust them with Jesus, do the next thing.” Up the mountain — one tree, one reevaluation at a time.

For more encouragement, read “How to Develop a Resilient Mindset” by Tim Sanford, and listen to Focus on the Family’s broadcast “Hope for Getting Through the Tough Times” with Max Lucado.