Resilience in life and faith

The journey towards resilience

‘As a teenager I would never have been described as resilient; I was emaciated, fragile, weak, timid, low in mood, self-critical, isolated and spiritually muddled’, says BRF author Dr Debbie Hawker, now a psychologist with a global reputation in trauma counselling.

‘God has taken me on a journey of healing – spiritually, physically and emotionally. He has taught me many truths. I have learned from resilient people I have met around the world, who have endured wars, earthquakes and terrorist attacks. And now, as a psychologist, I conduct research related to resilience.’

‘Resilience is even taught in some schools. But what does it mean, and how can we become more resilient? Resilience is often defined as “bouncing back” after difficulties. However, people don’t feel like they are “bouncing” as they wrestle with challenges, and they may not end back where they started. Resilience is about making the best of situations and handling pressure well. Our resilience can be depleted, but it can also be enhanced.

‘Interestingly, secular research highlights the importance of spiritual aspects of resilience, as well as physical, emotional, social and cognitive aspects.’

Resilience is often defined as “bouncing back” after difficulties. However, people don’t feel like they are “bouncing” and they may not end up back where they started.

Resilience in the Bible

'Take Joseph (of the special coat) as an example. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and later imprisoned. He coped by maintaining faith in God and believing that God can bring good out of dark situations. He found meaning in his suffering, and he had a sense of purpose and hope. He also practised forgiveness. These are aspects of resilience, backed by research.

'Or take Ruth. After her husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law die, she is left as a young widow without men for provision or protection. Her story teaches us the importance of close relationships and a supportive environment in nurturing resilience. Again, this is confirmed by psychological research.'

The Gleaners by Gustave Dore
Debbie Hawker

‘God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27),’ Debbie (left) reminds us. ‘ We should never write anyone off as being weak. God is able to give anyone the strength they need to be resilient. Even a timid teenager.’

Debbie’s book, Resilience in Life and Faith: Finding your strength in God, co-authored with Tony Horsfall, also considers lessons from Nehemiah, David and others.

For reflection

How could you help foster close relationships and a supportive environment for someone you know who needs to develop resilience?

In the Bible, resilient people learned to:

  • maintain faith in God
  • believe he can bring good out of dark situations
  • find meaning in the suffering
  • develop a sense of purpose and hope
  • practice forgiveness

What aspect of this could you prayerfully bring before God today, to help you become better able to cope with the challenges you might face in life?

Man at women

Develop your own resilience

Resilience in Life and Faith cover



Resilience in Life and Faith

by Tony Horsfall and Debbie Thrower

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The theory, presented simply enough for the amateur to understand but deeply enough to be helpful and authoritative, is balanced with lived-out practice. Each chapter closes with helpful questions for reflection. At the end is a quick but effective self-assessment to highlight the reader's current life practice and how it affects each facet of their resilience… I commend this resource to practitioners of pastoral care and to all Christians… to help them thrive in their daily lives'.

Tim Herbert, Director, SYZYGY Missions Support Network

Suitable for professionals, people with health issues or challenges in any sphere of their lives, and useful to people of other faiths or none. I was feeling quite low when I did the questionnaire at the back, but to my surprise (given that I was coping with a very recent autistic spectrum disorder diagnosis) found that in the sphere of spiritual resilience my 'score' was surprisingly high. It cheered me up and gave a greater understanding of areas I could work on. The book is almost like a devotional at times; the 'Resilient women of the Bible' chapter was outstanding. Thoroughly recommended and I will also be giving to friends, Christians and others.

A reader

Image acknowledgements

Illustration © Hannah Wheeler

Ruth and Boaz by Gustave Dore, public domain

Author photo © Debbie Hawker 

Man looking through a window © Thinkstock