Words of advice and aspiration abound at this time of year. And so they should. New Year is as good a time as any to set goals, dream about the future and think about what we could do differently.
However, you don’t have to be a prophet to predict that 2016 will bring its own challenges and difficulties. Apologies if that thought is an unwelcome intrusion into your dreaming and planning! In our more realistic and honest moments, most of us, I think, acknowledge that the assertion that 2016 will not be a sunny walk in the park is more a statement of fact than a mere opinion.
Having said all of that, what could be said that might help us as we enter a new year? I want to suggest one word that, understood and applied, could really make a big difference. I know some of you will guess that the word is “Jesus” or “faith”. How could I argue with you? However, let me suggest another word: resilience.
My definition of resilience is the ability to keep going when things get difficult or to bounce back when you have been knocked back.
Proverbs 24.16 indicates that the capacity to bounce back is something that belongs to the righteous: for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.
Consider for a moment how your life would change if you could up your resilience capacity by five per cent?
In Luke 18.1-8, Jesus tells a story in order to teach His disciples that they should always pray and not give up. It is a story about resilience.
Why did the disciples need to hear this story? Why do we need to hear this story?
Although the Bible does not reveal anything more than the purpose of the story, three possible reasons present themselves.
Firstly, we need to hear a story about resilience because we have a propensity to give up in the face of difficulty. For some, the “giving up” threshold is high. It takes a lot to make them give up. For some it is low. A minor setback and they quit.
Secondly, Jesus’ story is reminder that when all our best efforts in any given situation have failed, we can always pray. No-one can stop you from praying. Not even the devil! No-one that is except you! When it looks like the last word has been spoken and there is no hope, you can still pray.
Finally, Jesus’ story is not just a story of resilience, it’s a story of promise. The woman had her request granted! God answers the prayers of those who call to Him day and night. That’s a promise. Our priority is to stay in faith: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
There is eventual breakthrough.
Florence Chadwick was a phenomenal swimmer. In 1950 she broke the women’s record for swimming the English Channel. A year later, she became the first woman to swim the Channel both ways.
Not content with her records, Chadwick decided to swim from Catalina Island to the coast of California in 1952. She was making great progress, until a fog set in. She told her mother who was in one of the boats that she did not think she could continue. What she did not realise was that she was just one mile from her destination. She told the press afterwards: “All I could see was the fog…I think if I could have seen the shore I would have made it.”
Sometimes the mist of circumstances, emotions or even offence descends and we lose sight of the shore. The promise of God lifts the fog and brings breakthrough into view.
Whatever you do in the year ahead, keep swimming. Keep the promise of God before you. Have a resilient 2016.