As we learn to bounce back from painful situations, we find the power of resilience. Merriam-Webster defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”
Here’s a fact: You will experience misfortune and change. Pretending otherwise isn’t healthy or realistic. How you deal with misfortune and change determines your joy.
Most of us are aware of the popular verse, Jeremiah 29:11.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
We quote it, share it with grieving friends, and cross-stitch it onto pillows. But do we truly know what it means? In order to understand its meaning, we have to hang out in the preceding chapter, understanding the history of Israel, the nature of the exile, and the promise of the future.
The Jewish people disobeyed God in every possible way. They traded Him for evil gods, preferring to worship demons than bow to the King of Kings. As a direct result of that disobedience, God sent them into Babylonian exile.
In the midst of that, we meet Hananiah, a seer. In chapter 28, he prophesied peace for Israel, saying they will be returning to Jerusalem soon. His message? All will be well.
Problem was, he didn’t tell the truth.
All would not be well.
In this day, we see hundreds (thousands?) of Hananiahs prophesying the same thing. All will be well. Prosperity is coming. Claim your victory. And then we lump in Jeremiah 29:11 in with that. We want to believe the Christian life is all about our happiness. We want joy, but we don’t want exile to create it. We want to be strong in Jesus, but we don’t want to walk the Calvary road He walked. We want holiness without pain.
The context of Jeremiah 29 is exile. Jeremiah, who rebukes Hananiah and predicts his death, reminds the Israelites that their exile was to continue. Relief would eventually come, but not swiftly. He encouraged them to marry and bury, to plant vineyards, to seek the prosperity of their current place.
Jesus uttered the same truth:
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT).
We look for a better kingdom. As exiles and aliens on this sin-darkened earth, God doesn’t call us to escapism, but to find resilience in the midst of our trials. God gives us holy hope that this life is not all there is. Our suffering here means something. It helps us long for a better country, a better place.
Yes, of course God knows the plans He has for us. And ultimately He will give us a glorious future. But as we walk out our lives on this crazy earth, let’s remember that the best growth comes through persevering through trials, not escaping them entirely. And when we learn perseverance, we find surprising joy.
Prayer: Jesus, I want to practice resilience when misfortune or change come my way. Help me not try to escape my problems, but to face them with determination and with Your strength in me. I want to learn the secret of thriving in exile. Teach me how to have a new heart, new life this year by embracing the exercise of resilience. Amen.
This is an ongoing Thursday series based on the book Everything: What You Give and What You Gain to Become Like Jesus. It’s the book I wrote that details how exactly we can grow in our relationship with Jesus in a life-altering, hope-fueling way. It’s everything I know about discipleship and growth.