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Bounce Back

October 2, 2020
Resilience – How to thrive not just survive | Steph Walters

As I type this, one of the burning questions lots of us have on our mind is, “When will we bounce back?” It’s a burning question for me, anyway.

There are all sorts of answers available for this question, and you can get them at the tap of a few keys on your smart phone. Everything from, “Hey, we’re already bouncing back!” to “The world is ending. There will be no bounce back. The sky has fallen and we’re all going to die,” and most everything in between the extremes.

I have a second related question: Is there any way to bounce forward?

As a golfer, I’m familiar with the bounce-back. As in, “I hit the stupid tree and it bounced back 50 yards farther away from the green…” Occasionally I have the bounce forward, where it hits a tree or a limb and actually bounces forward toward the green. By “occasionally,” I mean, “That one time…”

I’m also simi-familiar with the bounce-back and bounce-forward in life. Like you, I’ve had at least my fair share of set-backs and bounce-backs (in the golfing sense of the term). I’ve experienced seasons of frustration and bewilderment when life has sent me a symbolic 50 yards farther away from my goal. It’s never been fun to this point, and I doubt it will ever be fun.

Now, positive thinkers call this kind of thing, “Opportunity for Course Correction.” They talk about set-backs and bounce-backs as opportunities to try something different. Intellectually, I can see the value of this. But not emotionally.

One of the things James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote kind of puts him in the positive thinkers group for me (though the rest of what he wrote seems very realistic). In the letter he wrote to the churches of his day, he gives more practical and useful concepts and principles than almost any of the other New Testament writers. One Bible commentator calls the Book of James, “The Proverbs of the New Testament.” In almost every regard, James is a realist, and a pretty strong one. I say “almost every regard” because of one thing that sometimes seems a little out there to me when I read it. He writes it early in his letter, in what we have as James 1:2. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds

Wait. What? Pure joy? Are you kidding? Half-brother of Jesus or no, that’s a bit out there for a realist.

The way J.B. Phillips paraphrased it makes it even more enigmatic. When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! 

Welcome them as friends? With friends like that, who needs enemies?

And yet, there it is in black and white. Could it be that bouncing forward begins with how I frame up the bounce-back? My conclusion is that indeed it can.

James goes on: because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

This, I think, is how a bounce-back becomes a bounce forward. The bounce-back isn’t the point. There’s an outcome that’s the point, and an amazing one: being mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James describes a process in a few words that can breathe life into otherwise hopeless situations. It starts with a test, with a bounce-back. Initially there’s nothing fun about that. It’s not the whole process, though. It’s actually the front porch of a process that produces depth and breadth of soul.

According to James, the bounce-back, the test, produces perseverance. It can, anyway, if I let it. I have to set my attitude toward this, or a bounce-back will only be a set-back, and I’ll be a victim of another bad thing, one more time on the fairway of life.

Perseverance is one of the most desirable qualities anybody can acquire. It’s in rare and short supply today. Perseverance is the ability to stay with it until it’s done, even – especially – when it’s difficult. Perseverance is the character trait that keeps going when it would be way easier to just say, “No mas.” It’s one of the lead marks of an effective life. And probably the most important thing about it is that it’s one of the top things God has on His list of things He wants to develop in your life.

But perseverance isn’t the end goal. It’s a means to an even greater end. James said it this way: Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

There’s the end goal. Maturity. You don’t get there by going to a class or reading a book. You don’t get there by listening to sermons. You get there through a process of moving through trials and trouble, through set-backs and bounce-backs, if (and this is a big if) you cooperate with God’s design to let them grow perseverance in you.

OK. So here’s my challenge. Train yourself to see your bounce-backs for what they are: opportunities to cooperate with God’s plan to produce maturity in you through the agency of perseverance. You don’t have to throw a party and hop up and down in excited anticipation when you have a bounce-back. I’m not wired for that, temperamentally. But I can discipline myself to lean into them and partner with God in His good plan for my life. And you can, too.

When we do, bounce-backs can become bounce-forwards.

By the way, if you’re a parent, or a grandparent, or an aunt or an uncle, or live in community of any kind with other people, you’re teaching people who are younger and less experienced than you how to deal with bounce-backs. Even when you don’t realize it. That’s a high honor, a grand trust. So pay attention to how you greet trouble like a friend, because somebody is watching and deciding how they’ll do it.

From → Marriage

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