Friday, February 11, 2011

Bounce - Back - ability

Commentary on the Sabbath School Lesson dated 2.12.11

That would be the word I just made up as a synonym for resilience.  Some other synonyms, according to Wikipedia are "psychological resilience", "emotional resilience", "hardiness", "resourcefulness", and "mental toughness",[1] and it seems to be a pretty big deal at the moment. Especially when we’re talking about kids.  See, everybody is trying to figure out why some kids turn out alright, even when they get teased and bullied while others bring guns to school and start killing people, and still others quietly kill themselves. 
Resilience isn’t just important in childhood, and it didn’t just become something to think about.  Even way back during Bible times, some people experienced some really terrible things and still turned out okay.  A couple of examples would be Joseph, Ruth, oh, and let’s not forget a biggie: Job.
What makes the difference?  Well, believe it or not, one excellent explanation comes from M. Night Shyamalan’s movie Signs.
Signs is the story of the Hess family, … who wake up one morning to find a 500-foot crop circle in the middle of their cornfield. Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), his brother Merril (Joaquin Phoenix), and Graham's two children, Morgan and Bo, watch TV news reports with growing alarm as they learn that the crop circle in their corn field is similar to others around the world, all the products of an alien invasion force. On the TV screen they see 14 lights in the night sky over Mexico City, visual evidence of the invaders.Merril turns to Graham, a former pastor who has lost his faith, for some comfort.“… ‘People break down into two groups. When they experience something lucky, group number one sees it as more than luck, more than a coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence that there is someone up there, watching out for them.‘Group number two sees it as just pure luck, a happy turn of chance. You can be sure that the people in group number two are looking at those 14 lights in a very suspicious way. For them, their situation is 50/50. Could be bad, could be good. But deep down, they feel that whatever happens, they're on their own.“‘And that fills them with fear. But, there's a whole lot of people in group number one. When they see those 14 lights, they're looking at a miracle, and deep down they feel that whatever's going to happen, there will be someone to help them. And that fills them with hope. So what you have to ask yourself: What kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, and sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or look at the question this way. Is it possible that there are no coincidences?’”[2]
What do you think?  Would you agree that one of the reasons some people bounce back from huge amounts of adversity is that they believe that they aren’t all alone – that Someone is watching over them?  These people can say with the psalmist:
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.” Psalm 46:1-3
Does it help you to remember that you’re not going through life all by yourself?  Does it comfort to know that
“We are assured and know that God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.”? Romans 8:28 Amplified Bible
When I think about how many times that one Bible verse has given me comfort, I have to wonder, where does someone who does not believe in a loving God find comfort during difficult times?  Where can someone who believes that, as the character in Signs says, “whatever happens, they’re on their own”?
I believe that the only reason Joseph could hang on at all with all the ups and downs he experienced was to know that no matter where he was, God was with Him.
“As the caravan journeyed southward toward the borders of Canaan, the boy could discern in the distance the hills among which lay his father’s tents. Bitterly he wept at thought of that loving father in his loneliness and affliction. Again the scene at Dothan came up before him. He saw his angry brothers and felt their fierce glances bent upon him. The stinging, insulting words that had met his agonized entreaties were ringing in his ears. With a trembling heart he looked forward to the future. What a change in situation—from the tenderly cherished son to the despised and helpless slave! ...   
“His thoughts turned to his father’s God. In his childhood he had been taught to love and fear Him. Often in his father’s tent he had listened to the story of the vision that Jacob saw as he fled from his home an exile and a fugitive.... His soul thrilled with the high resolve to prove himself true to God—under all circumstances to act as became a subject of the King of heaven. He would serve the Lord with undivided heart; he would meet the trials of his lot with fortitude and perform every duty with fidelity. One day’s experience had been the turning point in Joseph’s life. Its terrible calamity had transformed him from a petted child to a man, thoughtful, courageous, and self-possessed.”[3]
I’m probably, once again, over-simplifying what other folks see as a very complex set of issues, and I’m sure there are many reasons that some people find the resilience to bounce back from emotionally devastating experiences.  I believe, though, that people who believe that the world they live in is only a string of astronomical and biological accident, have nowhere to hide when circumstances become difficult.
“Faint not. Cast yourself at the feet of Jesus, who has been tempted, and knows how to help such as are tempted.... Plead your case before God, through Jesus, until your soul can with confidence rely upon Him for strength, and you feel that you are not left to do the work of overcoming alone. God will help you. Angels will watch over you. But before you can expect this help, you must do what you can on your part. Watch and pray.”[4]
That’s where bounce-back-ability  comes from!

[2] Signs (Touchstone Pictures, 2002), rated PG-13, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan
[3] E.G. White, Conflict and Courage, page 73
[4] E.G. White, The Faith I Live By, page 224

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