Note: This blog post was first published on the Grow2Serve blog and is used with permission. Our guest author regularly facilitates a 2-week online course entitled “Sustainable Resilience“.  This course is for cross-cultural workers who have lived at least 3 months in a new culture. 

Finding meaning and purpose

During “Sustainable Resilience”, we spend significant time talking about #10. We are referring to Southwick and Charney’s list of ten factors that were almost always present in those who demonstrated high resilience in adversity. Here’s #10:

Meaning and Purpose – were active problem solvers who looked for meaning and opportunity in the midst of adversity and sometimes even found humor in the darkness; used their traumatic experiences as a platform for personal growth.

Southwick, Steven; Charney, Dennis. Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, p. 16.

The right amount of stress

Personal growth is something almost all of us desire.  Therefore, if we can readjust our reaction to the hard things of life that come across our paths, we can turn negative experiences into tools of progress in our lives.  Indeed, science has shown that experiencing the right amount of stress is a good thing that improves performance.  In a December 2011 Time Magazine article, the author offers this summary statement,

“…there’s a sweet spot of stress: too much stress overloads the system and makes life difficult, but having had too little stress causes similar problems. It may be that people who have been through just enough hardship are best able to develop their abilities to cope — and have a more firmly established network of social support — making it easier for them to handle tough experiences later on. 

Maia Szalavitz, “The Goldilocks principle of Stress: Too Little is Almost As Bad as Too Much.

What’s right in this time of suffering?

Can we mature to a place in our lives where in the midst of suffering or sadness, we stop asking “what’s wrong?” Instead, we replace our inquiry with “what’s right?”  Here are a few things that are right in moments of conflict, sadness, suffering, and challenges:

  • difficulties remind us of our weakness
  • ordeals refresh our perspective that this material world is not all there is to life and existence
  • adversity draws us to God,
  • trials give us opportunity to experience God’s grace in deeply personal and meaningful ways
  • God’s comfort amid our discomfort provides the platform and substance to bless others (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
  • hardship opens the door to ecstatic rejoicing. We are often surprised at how God “shows up” and delivers with just the right timing.1For additional insights into the positive value of suffering in the life of a cross-cultural worker, see this blog post.

As tomorrow’s challenges and choices confront me, will I find the perspective, the grace, and the power from God to say to myself and to the world “what’s right today?”

On God’s path of blessing

Here are some possible answers — I am in the right location where God has intentionally placed me.  I am also on the path of growth and service that He has planned for me.  Today I am receiving the special blessings of God’s presence and provision that would not have been possible without today’s challenges.

I believe in a big God who rules a big Universe. So, at the end of the day, I can come to an even deeper realization that my journey of troubles or sorrows or tribulations finds meaning not only in my own well-being or even growth…  but also very actively plays a huge role in my ability to love my neighbor.