Dear Centenary Family,
One word that I’ve seen used a lot recently as we all work our way through this time of pandemic, accompanied with the quest for racial justice and concern over an uncertain economy is the word resilience.
A recent article in Psychology Today described resilience like this:
Resilience is the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties, traumatic events, or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, highly resilient people find a way to change course, emotionally heal, and continue moving toward their goals.
This article goes on to point out that some of us may have a genetic predisposition toward resilience. Some of us, for instance are more optimistic by nature than others.
Resilience has a lot to do with learning to deal with setbacks and disappointments. It also has something to do with having some close, nurturing relationships and finding ways to take care of ourselves—eating right, sleeping, exercising, being patient with ourselves.
Churches are being encouraged to learn how to be resilient in this uncertain time. That means adapting to the uncertainty about when we’ll be able to gather in person for worship and fellowship again. It means letting go of old ways of doing things that just won’t work in this time. It means seeing our gifts and successes and building on those.
Centenary is a resilient congregation. It’s been through a civil war, two world wars, a depression, who knows how many recessions, shifts in politics and culture, denominational strife, the flight of residents from the city to the suburbs, and their return. This congregation has had to learn to adapt, to bounce back, to change course, to emotionally heal, and keep moving toward its goals.
And as individuals, we can draw from that strength present in this congregation to deal with the challenges and what some now call trauma of the current situation. We will not be the same church on the other side of the pandemic, but we will continue to be the church.
The next two Sundays, in worship, we will look at the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis. I confess, it may be my favorite story in the Bible. If you have time over the next couple of weeks, I invite you to read Genesis 37-50. It’s a great story with drama and a lot of layers of meaning. This week, Joseph is a young boy who treats his brothers with arrogance by telling them of his dreams that they’ll bow to him one day. They don’t like his dreams and want to kill him. But instead, they throw him in a pit and them sell him into slavery.
Have you been in the pit? Do you feel like you might be in the pit right now? What’s the view from the pit?
It is healthy to acknowledge the difficult realities of our lives and to acknowledge that suffering comes to us all. But for Joseph, the pit is a place that is the beginning of a profound personal transformation. Whatever else we may say about Joseph, we’d have to say that he is a model of resilience.
I believe if Christians would internalize this story, along with the 8th chapter of Romans, we’d find many of the resources we need to face our adversities with resilience. In one way or another, both of these great texts affirm that God is present even when God is hidden, and that God is working to take even our worst experiences and weave them into a beautiful tapestry of goodness. Paul writes, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
I won’t reveal the punch line of Joseph’s story. We won’t get to that until next week in worship. But let’s just say that Joseph discerns that through all his hardships, even in the pit, God was taking all these things others intended for his harm, and turned them to some good purpose.
And that’s the source of resilience as the people of God. God is always working for our good—and the world’s even when we can’t see it.
God bless you as we journey through this school of resilience together!