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Spiritual Perseverance

You learned to walk or ride a bicycle by falling down.  Olympic athletes fail too many times to count on their way to the gold medal. So it is with anything you want to achieve.  Spiritual resiliency is fundamental to a growth in holiness to which every Christian is called.  But along the way, we will encounter much failure.  That is not a reason to quit, at all, but the very reason to keep going! We learn one more way in which not to do it and as complex as our natures are, there are certainly a lot of ways we need to learn how not to do it.

But the real focus on developing spiritual resiliency as a trait, and enduring part of our being, is the celebration of our little successes along the way. Focus on those times when you overcame the temptation to give up and trusted God, remaining joyful and optimistic in the midst of a trial. One can even begin with small annoyances as I alluded to earlier, such as delays in traffic.  Begin with the small matters, pay attention to them and reinforce the successes. No jet pilot, astronaut, professional athlete or saint achieved what they did without both learning from the mistakes and working hard on reinforcing the successes.

‘They will know we are Christians by our love’, by our love, joy, peace and serenity in every circumstance through our spiritual resilience.

The Calling

Sinner or saint, He calls each soul into intimate dialogue with Him because His love cannot be contained nor constrained any longer as He looks upon the condition of the world and the souls being lost to eternal damnation.  Torrents of graces from Heaven are being poured out onto the world in ways never seen before as He urges His children to turn to Him!  Do not fall into Satan’s trap of judging where you are at the moment. It is irrelevant to a dialogue of the heart with your Creator who wants so badly to dialogue with you! Whatever our natures are, our dispositions are, He will adapt His dialogue to us in order to most effectively communicate with us, just as we adapt ourselves depending on circumstances and who we are talking to.

A Deeper Calling

Jesus, You want us to know Your Presence especially in the tabernacle, but also in the world as never before. We see Your fulfillment of that as we look around us and see Your hand at work in Your people.

You say You are doing something completely new. Are we open to it? Or do we prejudge this work and Your words to us? Are we so proud and so wise that we trust our judgment over Your new way of intervention in the world? Was that not the sin of those who persecuted the prophets, Jesus and his Apostles and disciples throughout the Bible?

Lord, open our minds and hearts to Your Spirit!  Open our minds and fill our hearts each day, and each moment in each day to the new ways You mean to intervene in our lives and in the lives of others through us as we open our hearts to You and to them in love!

You want to teach us things that until now, in this time were the secrets of heaven?!  But how can we – or our humanity receive such a gift?  Only with Your grace, my Jesus!  Otherwise the knowledge of heaven’s secrets would be wasted.

Prepare our souls for such a precious gift, Lord, for we cannot hope to contain what You desire to teach us – those things that before now You waited until a soul reached heaven to reveal.  There must have been a reason for You to not reveal heaven’s secrets to mortals until now, therefore, our souls could not possibly have been ready for it without special grace from You!  Open our hearts, Lord!  Fill them with Your grace!

The Second Coming of Jesus

Everyone who is Christian and even those who are not know the prophecy that Jesus will return in glory.  Actually, I believe He is in the process of returning even now, at this moment in time.  You heard that right.  The Second Coming will not be just a onetime event, which of course it will be the greatest of events since the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Jesus is in the process of returning now.  He is coming now, ever so lovingly, but ever so urgently! You need not wait, wondering when He will come again.  I believe that He is in the process of returning now! In some extraordinary ways!

Consider for a moment the movement of a great general who is intent on recapturing lost territory.  He sends in the advance troops to prepare the way ahead of him and his army.  Jesus has not neglected the world until his eventual return in triumph.  He has sent many a prophet ahead of him, from the saints to Billy Graham to Martin Luther King to Mother Teresa to the Pope and on and on.  He has even allowed apparitions by His Mother to warn us like those of Fatima and Lourdes.

And now He is sending his lay apostles into the world ahead of his final appearance in an unprecedented manner. But, in these times, He is in the process of coming in a much more profound and personal way as He is coming through His very Presence.

Asceticism and Spiritual Resilience

An element of spiritual resilience is the practice of asceticism.  A quick definition: the abstinence from worldly pleasures or natural inclinations of the nature for the pursuit of spiritual growth. Those asceticisms most often involve some sort of restraint with respect to the mind, emotions, senses or body.  Asceticism has a very long history in the Church and in Jewish practices, the practice of self-disciplines or denials to gain mastery over the weaknesses of the flesh. Fasting has always been the most prominent form of ascetic practice, and in broad terms, one can fast with respect to any of the previously listed areas of restraint.

With regard to resilience, the practice of asceticism involves learning to deny ourselves the natural reactions that accompany adversity. A much larger discussion of the practice of asceticism in the development of the spiritual life of a Christian is needed but suffice it to say that any Christian serious about developing an active spiritual life should be practicing some form of asceticism on an ongoing basis in their daily life.  It is critical to the development of spiritual muscle so that saying no to yourself and your desires, as normal and natural as they are, becomes ingrained and can be exercised in times of temptation.

One more aspect of asceticism: when you deny yourself a normal and natural response or pleasure, it opens a place, or better, a space for God if you make the choice to replace the space with Him. When practiced in an ongoing form, like some small fast of some type, we make a continuous place for Him in our very nature, our flesh as it were.

Spiritual Resilience

For the Christian, spiritual resilience, which goes well beyond just being positive, is a core essential to living a life of faith.  One need only look at the early Christians undergoing persecution starting with St. Stephen to see shining examples of spiritual resilience. Living spiritual resilience, a life of faith, means living in love, with hope and trusting God is in complete control of every detail of our life, no matter what is happening.  It is our witness of resiliency in every circumstance of our life, particularly when it involves trial and suffering, that bears witness to our faith and attracts others to the faith in Jesus Christ.  It was the resilience of the Apostles and early Christians, especially under extreme persecution, which stood in sharp contrast against the prevailing culture which attracted multitudes to the faith. No ‘eye for an eye’ was evident in their resilience, rather hearts full of love and hope trusting Jesus was present and in control.  The martyrs of the church through the centuries have demonstrated extreme resilience as they went to their death joyfully, affirming their trust in God’s Providence.

Resilience requires a degree of dispassionate detachment from the current circumstances of our lives as we see it from the larger perspective.  In secular terms, we might say that we are looking at our life from the 40,000 foot level.  But in our relationship with Jesus, it is so much more than that, because in that relationship, as we hope to love as He loves, we can see as He sees.  And the way He sees our lives is with love and compassion. As we see with His perspective, it is much broader than just the current circumstance; He is seeing our situation as part of our journey toward Him and eternity.

But how do we as ordinary Christians develop spiritual resiliency that will carry us through any adversity?  After all, it is not just a choice and then we have the ability, rather, it is something that must be developed in our lives.

Neuroplasticity and Spiritual Resilience

Setting our hearts and minds on the goal of developing spiritual resiliency has to start from the place of poverty of spirit before God as His servants, because every good thing comes from the hand of God. (James 1:17) If we come to Him begging for a resilient spirit so as to serve Him and glorify Him in every moment and every circumstance of our lives, we are sure to please Him with that request.  How and when He chooses to grace us is His decision, but surely He will do it as He holds nothing back for those who pursue Him with singular focus.

The beautiful thing is we have very powerful principles of human development, particularly within the science of neuroplasticity, that give us insight into how in our humanity, we can cooperate more effectively with God’s grace.  We can reprogram our brains in very determined ways using sound principles we have outlined to develop greater resilience. If you want to explore neuroplasticity further, I would recommend “Rewire Your Brain” by John B. Arden, PhD.  It is a secular treatment of the science, but is well documented and certainly applicable to the spiritual life.

May your spiritual resilience grow within you so that the fire of God’s Love burns within you so brightly that it becomes a Blowtorch, apparent to everyone in every circumstance of your life, no matter how challenging it is!

The Importance of Social Connections for Spiritual Resilience

One of the core principles of Christianity is social connection.  For Christians, it is the community of believers we come together with to worship, praise, pray, serve and fellowship. “For where two or three are gathered in my name…” (Matthew 18:20) The science of neuroplasticity tells us that positive social connection is positive medicine for the brain and has profound effects mentally, psychologically, and physically. Positive social connection rewires the brain for joy and optimism.

Spiritual resiliency is perfected in a positive social connection of a community of believers. Note the focus on the essential element of ‘positive’ as there are unfortunately many examples of negative.  When the community of believers comes together in affirming ways to provide encouragement each of the elements of spiritual resilience are encouraged and reinforced. We do not proceed to the goal without the team, the community of believers who not only provide every type of human support, and role models, but also intercede to God for us to grow in our resilience.  What more could we want in our development of spiritual resilience than the community of believers in Jesus Christ to support us?

How to develop Spiritual Resilience

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The development of spiritual resilience begins and ends with a study, a contemplation, of the Passion of Jesus, beginning at the Last Supper and culminating in His crucifixion.   As a starting point, when we examine His example of resilience, we see His focus on doing the Will of the Father first and foremost and demonstrating His Love for us in doing that. Though suffering unspeakable brutality and falling under the weight of the Cross, His joy exemplified by His peace and serenity in the midst of suffering, remained.  “Weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your children….,” He said to the women (Luke 23:28).  He is firmly established in the Father’s Will for Him, even in the midst of human failure as His humanity crashes to the dirt under the weight of the Cross and He is unable to get up under His own power, but must be lifted up by bystanders and helped to carry His Cross by Simon.

Throughout His Passion not once did he give in to the temptations of despair, anger, resentment, bitterness, revenge, hate, contempt or self-pity.  He remained steadfast in His love, mercy, and compassion, even for those torturing and killing Him.

So we study the example of Christ during His Passion as One we can admire and hope to emulate as our role model.  It is His example of resiliency which stands as the ultimate example resilience.

Mini Meditation on The Will

“The greatness of man lies in his will whereby he is able to give himself in love and attaining the pinnacles of heroism. It is on these resources that the irrepressible aspiration of man is founded: the aspiration toward truth – this is the life of intelligence – and the aspiration to freedom – this is the breath of the will. Here man acquires his great incomparable stature which no one can crush underfoot, which no one can mock, which no one can deprive him of.”

St. John Paul II

Mini Meditation on Joy

“To pass from sadness to joy requires a birth, a moment of travail and labor, for no one ever mounts to a higher life without death to the lower. Before such an ascent, conscience, for a moment, has a hard, stern work to do. Pearls come from the bottom of the water, gold from the depths of the earth, and the great joys in life are to be found in the recesses of a contrite, broken heart.”

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Book Review: ” Can You TEXT ME Directions?” by Bonnie Young

Bonnie Young Crandall has done it again with her newest title, “Can You TEXT ME Directions”, a short (106 pages) but very powerful collection of vignettes from young people all over the world. They tell their stories of finding Jesus in ways that surprised them, in an honest and open way, full of every kind of joy and sorrow, struggle and victory that youth today are quite familiar with.  Bonnie has done a masterful job of editing each story to its essence and yet leaving in the uniqueness that is each person.

It is the kind of book that once you pick it up, is hard to put down. Some of the stories are absolutely fascinating. When you are finished with one story, you feel compelled to read the next, because after all, it is short.  Many of the stories caused a tear to form as the persons, all very real, are so easy to relate to.

As Jesus works in their lives and their hearts, you can feel the joy and wonder with them as they yield to Him and overcome the obstacles in their lives with new found faith.  The book is written so well that one can easily empathize sufficiently to feel the flame of love for God in their hearts turning into a blowtorch!

It is the kind of book that every high school and college student needs to read.  The memory of those stories will strengthen them as they invariably encounter the many struggles of faith faced by maturing students in an academic environment. It would also be superb for small groups to read and share on as well.

You can order the book from her blog here or on Kindle from Amazon here.

Get a copy for yourself and then get copies for every high school or college student you know. It can be a life changer. You just never know the good it can do…… eternally.