During the CIT Next online course “Sustainable Resilience”, we spend some significant time talking about #10 in Southwick and Charney’s list of ten factors that were almost always present in those they studied who demonstrated high resilience in situations of adversity. Here’s #10:
“Meaning and Purpose – were active problem solvers who looked for meaning and opportunity in the midst of adversity and sometimes even found humor in the darkness; used their traumatic experiences as a platform for personal growth.” 1
Personal growth is something almost all of us desire. If we can readjust our reaction to the hard things of life that come across our paths, we can turn negative experiences into tools of progress in our lives. Science has even shown that experiencing the right amount of stress is a good thing that improves performance. In a December 2011 Time Magazine article, “The Goldilocks Principle of Stress: Too Little Is Almost As Bad as Too Much”, the author offers this summary statement,
“…there’s a sweet spot of stress: too much stress overloads the system and makes life difficult, but having had too little stress causes similar problems. It may be that people who have been through just enough hardship are best able to develop their abilities to cope — and have a more firmly established network of social support — making it easier for them to handle tough experiences later on. 2
Can we mature to a place in our lives where in the midst of suffering or sadness we stop asking “what’s wrong?” and replace our inquiry with “what’s right?” Here are a few things that are right in moments of conflict, sadness, suffering and challenges:
- difficulties remind us of our weakness,
- ordeals refresh our perspective that this material world is not all there is to life and existence,
- adversity draws us to God,
- trials give us opportunity to experience God’s grace in deeply personal and meaningful ways,
- God’s comfort amid our discomfort provides the platform and substance to bless others3,
- hardship opens the door to ecstatic rejoicing as we are often surprised at how God “shows up” and delivers with just the right timing.
At the end of the day, as one who believes in a big God who rules a big Universe, I can come to an even deeper realization that my journey of troubles or sorrows or tribulations finds meaning not only in my own well-being or even growth… but also very actively plays a huge role in my ability to love my neighbor.
As tomorrow’s challenges and choices confront me, will I find the perspective, the grace, and the power from God to say to myself and to the world “what’s right today?”
Here are some possible answers — I am in the right location where God has intentionally placed me. I am on the path of growth and service that He has planned for me. Today I am receiving the special blessings of God’s presence and provision that would not have been possible without today’s challenges.
1Southwick, Steven; Charney, Dennis. Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges (p. 16). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.
32 Corinthians 1:3-4