Thursday, 12 August 2021

The Importance of ‘Hope’ to Developing Resilience

The word resilience is a buzz word that people in all walks of life use frequently. This has certainly been the case in schools as COVID-19 has led to enforced home-schooling and disrupted lives. But what do we mean by resilience, and how do we identify and develop it in our children? In the midst of this pandemic I’ve been wondering, might people’s understanding of resilience be too limited?


The Oxford dictionary defines resilience as “being able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.” But is it a natural and innate human quality, or can we develop, strengthen or even lose it? Does the resilient person simply develop more positive attitudes, and apply themselves well to the tasks at hand? Or perhaps, do they ‘grow’ and achieve a “positive mindset” to quote a common but vague expression? I want to suggest that in all such discussions, the place of “hope” is often overlooked.


Paul’s Letter to the Roman’s in the Bible is just one place where we are reminded that with hope, all things are possible. Paul encouraged the church and its people to offer themselves in love as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1-8). He also urged acceptance for the weak and strong in faith (Rom 14) and that the strong in faith were to bear with the failings of others (Rom 15:7). But sitting atop all of these qualities he stressed there should be hope! We are to “overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13). 

The Bible and even secular sources, show that ‘true’ resilience requires hope. But what we actually place our hope in is also critical. In the midst of a pandemic, trusting in your own health, fitness, or even young age, is not the answer. The type of hope the Apostle Paul talks about is more than just wishful think, or “hoping for the best”. No, this is a certain hope, one based on an understanding that God, can be trusted, and that we can have a confident hope in our future (Heb. 6:9-12). 


For over 18 months, COVID-19 has been a dominant factor shaping lives and opportunities around the world. I suspect that hardly a day goes by for teachers, and parents without talking about coping with life and of course resilience. But where do we go in search of resilience?

It has been instructive to observe governments, schools, hospitals and individuals responding to the challenge, and seeking to control the risks and circumstances of their worlds. I suspect that calling on God to control and end COVID-19, has rarely been a consideration for many. So, from where is hope being sought? Quite simply, from human ingenuity and solutions, led by clever scientists, skilled doctors and governments enforcing controls.


I have pondered whether people of faith, including Christian parents, teachers and leaders, are looking in the same places for encouragement and solutions? I can’t answer this question, but I suspect that even in Christian circles there has been as much fear and self-reliance as outside the church. As I argue in my book 'Pedagogy and Education for Life' "education is the whole of life of a community, and the experience of its members learning to live this life". As we teach and nurture our students towards 'true' life, we are constantly supporting, encouraging and teaching them to seek the hope that can only be found in God. This hope is vital to their growth in resilience. 


A well-known secular book on resilience, outlines 10 key factors in achieving it. These include:

  • Confronting fears and remaining optimistic.
  • Seeking and accepting support.
  • Imitating 'sturdy' role models.
  • Relying on an 'inner compass'.
  • Embracing religious practices (i.e. believing in something greater than yourself).
  • Accepting what we can't change.
  • Taking care of our bodies and well-being.
  • Seeing bad experiences as an opportunity to grow. 
  • Seeking to improve and change, and
  • Taking personal responsibility for own care.

It is instructive to see that even in key texts for secular audiences, the human need for hope is found not just in one’s self. The need for hope is also seen as a key foundation for the development of resilience in the face of suffering. As we confront the burden of Covid-19, our best response is to encourage one another. Not by lamenting what we have lost, but in faith, seeking to hold onto the hope of the Cross. We must act with urgency to help others to understand that beyond the pandemic and this short life, is an eternal hope that surpasses any number of days on this earth. My encouragement to all at this difficult time, is to seek hope beyond experts and self-help schemes to our God, the author of life and the sustainer of all things.



Steven M. Southwick & Dennis S. Charney, Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges’, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2018


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