On Courage and Resilience
Relying on God in the midst of the chaos of our world.
When we look out into our world, we can see uncertainty and chaos. Chaos can take many forms. A minute of scrolling through our feeds tells a dozen stories of the suffering of our friends, the pain in the world, or even the success of the undeserving. All of these voices whisper, “Maybe God doesn’t know what He’s doing.” If we let ourselves forget God’s sovereignty, the world becomes a much more terrifying place.
Jesus, however, invites us into a different reality.
Courage is living in God’s power despite the chaos of the world. Scripture’s narrative shows the pain and the injustice of the world, yet it points us to a greater hope. Even though countless reasons to fear swirl around us, God relentlessly seeks our thriving.
The story of Paul and Silas in prison (Acts 16:16-40) is one of the most powerful stories of courage and resilience in the scriptures. Two men, wrongfully imprisoned, choose to praise God rather than bemoan their unjust circumstances.
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).
How can we shape our minds in opposition to fear? Here’s one way. Like Paul and Silas, we can worship. As we sing (or draw or write or sculpt) we can oppose the many voices around us that say God is not in control. It takes courage to sing praise amidst suffering. We risk disappointment and rejection. But imagine for a moment, what could Paul and Silas have been singing about in that jail cell? Were they singing of how God freed Israel from slavery in Egypt? Were they singing of Jesus on the cross? Were they singing of something God had done in their own lives? As they sang, the reality of the jail became smaller and the reality of the Kingdom became greater.
What songs might we sing in the face of trial and opposition?
Closely tied to courage is resilience. Where courage stands in defiance of the chaos of the world, resilience sits at peace despite it. In the jail cell, a violent earthquake frees Paul and Silas.
“The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’” (Acts 16:27-28)
Paul and Silas do not leave their situation of suffering even though they have the full ability to do so. In staying put, they save the jailer’s life.
We are often tempted to check out—to ignore or dismiss the pain of those around us. Our world teaches us to seek comfort at every opportunity. In fact, discomfort is almost a moral evil in our culture, something that we dedicate billions of dollars every year to combat.
Resilience is the ability to stay in the cell when it would be so much easier to leave. Jesus’ life and death assure Paul and Silas that they can be at peace in the jail cell. Jesus let himself be subject to the chaos of the world, and so would they. Their courage and resilience, built upon trust in God, lead not only to their own rescue but to rescue and renewal of those God placed in their path.
This is good news! We can both defy the chaos of our world and be at peace within it. As we meditate on this paradox, we step closer to the heart of Jesus on the cross, the ultimate act of courage and resilience.
Words: Matt Hayashida
Photography: Inés Álvarez Fdez, Annie Spratt