How Well Do You Bounce Back?

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Your infant spits up on you right before you head off to an interview in your freshly, dry-cleaned business suit (the suit you specifically cleaned for this occasion). Or, you lock the front door behind you, only to realize you forgot your keys inside the house. Or, the car won't start and you're already late for an important appointment. Anyone have days like these? How did you handle them? I've had my fair share of stressful days. One time, when I was already 10 minutes behind schedule, I couldn’t find my phone anywhere in the house as I tried frantically to get out the front door. I'd looked everywhere . . . except the fridge. Apparently, when I pulled the milk out in the morning to add a dash to my coffee (that I clearly hadn't drank yet), I'd placed my phone in the fridge in exchange for the milk. The day didn't improve much from there.

In all seriousness, when life throws tomatoes at you, how well do you bounce back? Sometimes, life’s inevitable difficulties—trauma, tragedy, financial stress, or relational issues—can bring us to what might feel like “rock bottom." This is where resiliency comes in. After experiencing life’s challenges, are you able to bounce back stronger, more self-aware, and with a higher self-esteem?

Why Is Resiliency So Important?

Resiliency helps us combat depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. It allows us to feel—from our core—that we can make it through difficult times and come out stronger on the other side. Do you remember the parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders, and the house built on a rock? When life throws us into a storm, everything feels like it’s swept out from underneath us. Our world comes crashing down “and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:27, ESV). However, if we practice resiliency and strengthen our inner being, we can withstand the storm. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:25, ESV). We're all capable of being that house built on a rock.

But how do we get there?

How to Become More Resilient

Here are a few strategies to help you become more resilient and able to cope with life's challenges.

  • Get in tune with the messages you're sending yourself daily. Sometimes, we're our own worst critics. In times of trouble, our inner dialogue is essential in helping us cope and push forward. Maybe you're thinking to yourself, “I'm not capable of getting over this," or “I'm not worth it,” or “Bad things always happen to me.” Start catching the negative thoughts, acknowledging them, and then redirecting your thoughts to your strengths in the moment. You'll find yourself feeling stronger and more self-confident.

  • Give yourself grace. Have compassion for yourself and your 'humanness.' We make mistakes and things happen to us. Being able to accept difficulties in our life helps us in two ways: it keeps us from sitting in negativity and helplessness, and it brings us closer to focusing on supports we have and the ways we can make our situation manageable. Find your strengths.

  • Spend time in nature. How does nature apply to the fact that my car isn’t starting and I need to get to an interview? In all honesty, we need to get out of our homes and offices and take in fresh air to reset our minds and body. Really, it's about carving out a time in your week for self-care—like meditation, nature walks, journaling, or regular massages. Find what's best for you and work it in. Notice the differences in how you feel throughout the day and week when you take time to recharge.

I encourage you to start practicing resiliency—even when life is going great—so you're more prepared when challenges come. Above all else, be kind to yourself. You are capable. You are valued. You are gifted. You matter. If you don’t feel these things, ask God to help see yourself the way He sees you—as His loved and cherished child. And if you are anything like me, I need those reminders to feel like I can face what’s in front of me each day. I hope you find God's peace and little joys during this season of your life. Remember to look up. God is with you, always.

Finding Meaning in Work

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Our son burst into our bedroom one morning recently with an alarming proclamation. “IT SNOWED last night!" he exclaimed. "Do we have school today, Mom?”    

Attempting to gather myself and slow my racing heart, I rolled over towards my bed stand, grabbed my phone, and squinted at the blinding screen. “Sorry bud, no cancellation notices. You are going to school,” I announced.

I'm sure you can imagine the immediate deflation of an eight-year old boy with grand hopes of playing in the snow and sipping hot chocolate, who now faced the crushing reality of another day of times-tables and cafeteria food. As I put my phone back down in a sleepy haze, our son stormed out in disappointment, lamenting, “Why do we have to go to school . . . ?”

To be honest, there have been many days that I've woken up with the same dispirited feeling wishing that I didn’t have to go to work. The “Sunday blues” is a real emotion that many people feel as the weekend comes to a close and Monday morning looms ahead. I'm not alone in this battle. In a recent Forbes poll, only 42.6% of workers liked their jobs, 52.3% of people were unhappy with their work, and 70% of workers weren't satisfied with their career choice. With 1/3 of our day spent at work, and with so many people unhappy at their jobs, we have a real problem on our hands.

The Bible actually talks a great deal about the subject of work. As a matter of fact, the very first words in Genesis reveal that God was at work and actually enjoyed it—He declared that His work was good. Near the end of the creation account, God creates man and woman, and He creates them in His own image. God blesses them and gives them a job to do: “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground” (Genesis 1:28 NLT). God entrusted work to human-kind and invited them to partner with Him in the building and stewarding of creation and culture.

Nancy Pearcy, in Total Truth, writes, “The first phrase, ‘be fruitful and multiply’ means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, ‘subdue the earth’ means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, and compose music. This passage is sometimes called the cultural mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations—nothing less.” Unfortunately, we've lost this biblical perspective and our work has become a means to an end. We work to pay the bills, to put food on the table, to put our kids through college—or as the popular expression goes, “I work hard so that I can play hard.”

Many of us may be at a crossroads in our lives, and we need to step back and get a larger vision, a transformed perspective, and a broader paradigm of the transcendent purpose of work itself. Having a biblical perspective of work doesn’t mean that we go to work to share our faith with the hopes of converting our co-workers (though that may happen), but instead, we see that our vocation is part of God’s grand story that started in the garden and will continue when Jesus returns and establishes a new heavens and a new earth. Our work is a part of God’s Kingdom coming here on “earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Walking out of my church's sanctuary, the words on the back wall read: "We go out as partners with God.” Our work, whether it's paid or unpaid, is in partnership with God. Like He assigned the naming of the animals to Adam and Eve, so He assigns us tasks to steward creation and culture in a way that glorifies God and serves the common good (Proverbs 12:11, 14b, 24; 14:23). How do we do this? Jeremiah 29:4-7 gives us an example: “'Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters. And take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, that they may give birth to sons and daughters. Become many there, and do not let your number become less. Work for the well-being of the city where I have sent you to and pray to the Lord for this. For if it is well with the city you live in, it will be well with you.’”

Though God holds an extremely high value of our work, our value is not determined by our work. This can be a stumbling block for many of us who've been raised to believe that our work is our identity. A great way to determine if this is an issue is by identifying the emotions we experience when someone asks us, “So, what do you do for a living?” Do we cringe or do we gloat? Unfortunately, we live with the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sinfulness—thus the struggle to enjoy work, to work too much or too little, or to find our value or our identity by our work. Thank God that Jesus came and redeemed humanity's failures so that those who put their faith in Jesus can be adopted as sons and daughters into God’s family. God loves us and is pleased with us because we are His kids. We can’t do anything to earn His favor; Jesus did that for us. But just like the devil tempted Jesus' identity in the wilderness, he too will tempt us to live out of a false identity pursuing our ambitions, appetites, and approval through our work.

God’s desire is that we approach our work with a new paradigm of partnership with Him to bring about His Kingdom on earth with all of heaven’s resources at our fingertips. Hugh Whelchel, in his book How Then Should We Work, writes, “As we in obedience answer the vocational call in our own lives, we must learn to believe God uses everything we do. ‘ . . . we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ (Romans 8:28) All of our work, even the most mundane things we do are taken by God and transformed into Kingdom work.”