Researching the theme of resilience,
Lyndall Bywater discovered that it enables us to “withstand shock
without it causing permanent damage or rupture.”4 God has made us
intrinsically resilient, and given us amazing protective mechanisms
to absorb and recover from immense physical and emotional pain. Even
though we may have suffered great loss, we must resist the
temptation to sit back and settle for less: resilient faith helps us
to bounce back again.
authorities had banned the apostles from mentioning the name of
Jesus, there was a real danger that the fledgling church would lose
its way. “It’s no good, Jesus,” they might have protested. “We’ve
done our best, but it just isn’t the same without You; we can’t do
any more!” Rather than giving up, or putting on a brave face and
pretending that everything was okay, we read in Acts 4 that they
turned to the Lord with still greater intensity, refusing to assume
that they had failed just because they were meeting such strenuous
In times of shock, it helps to
rehearse what God has said to us. Isn’t it better to have our lives
shaped more by God’s promises than by how circumstances appear?
“This is how things appear, Lord, and this is what other people are
saying – but what do You have to say about it?”
No one enjoys these testing periods,
but such was the disciples’ strength of spirit that they were
remarkably unperturbed by them. After all, Jesus had told them
plainly that they would encounter many such difficulties.
Refusing to let the pressure make them retreat into themselves, the
disciples rose to the challenge. Since the Divine Script Writer had
allowed these scenarios to come about, He must have a way of
bringing eternal good out of them.
May the Lord make us like the early
Christians who “used” persecution to drive them to seek God more
earnestly, and who refused to stop witnessing to what they knew to
be true. When they asked the Lord to “consider their threats” it was
their way of saying, “Lord, this is Your problem: we must get on
with the mission You have sent us on.”
How infinitely better this was than
forming “A Committee to study Safe Responses in Times of
Persecution.” Calling on the Lord for boldness, the apostles cried,
“Stretch out Your hand to heal, Lord” – and promptly went out and
did the very thing the authorities had forbidden them to do:
preaching the gospel everywhere they could.
There is nothing “safe” about being led by the Spirit! Those who are
hostile to the work of the Spirit always cramp and oppose prophets
and pioneers, and try to impose a more conventional course of
action. We cannot afford to change the agenda God has given us just
because the going is tough – or even because certain prayers appear
to remain unanswered.
At a time when I was feeling
overwhelmed by a number of daunting challenges, I picked up my much
loved Living Bible and opened it at Hosea 6:1-2:
Come, let us
return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces;
now He will heal us.
He has injured us;
now He will bandage our wounds.
In just a short time –
two or three days at the most –
He will set us on our feet again,
so that we may live in His kindness.
This passage provided just
the comfort that I needed, firstly because it spoke of the
Lord working within precisely the time frame I needed Him to
move in, and secondly because it raised my hopes that I
would be able to enjoy “living in His kindness” beyond the
The following day, while I was out
walking the dog, I found myself caught up in an unexpected vision. I
was eleven years old and running out to play for the school football
team on a cold winter’s morning. Unlike anyone else in the team I
was wearing gloves to protect my fingers against the cold. “You took
stick for standing out for what you know you needed to do,” the Lord
reminded me, “and you are doing the same thing now. Remember: the
mockery didn’t stop you rising to become joint captain.”
I had long since forgotten all this,
but now that the Lord highlighted it, I could remember being teased
for wearing gloves. I also remember the wonderfully successful
season we enjoyed the following year, during which two of us
operated an unusual but highly successful arrangement as joint
captains of the team.
This powerful reminder increased my
trust that the Lord really was going to turn an immensely painful
situation around. It was doubly special that He did so precisely
three days later.