Developing Resilience #1

As I’ve talked to hundreds of leaders in recent years, one of the common words used to describe their emotional state is “exhausted”. Leading has never been easy, because you are fighting the gravitational pull of the status quo, but it’s become even harder in our time of extreme change. Back in 1987, the military used a term to describe the environment of their day: VUCA: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. And that was in the 80’s! With no internet, social media, global pandemics, etc. etc.

I now long for the simplicity of the 80’s… Over three decades later, we live in an era of extreme VUCA. And add to it polarization. So VUCAP? There are so many competing voices and crises happening simultaneously. There is stiff competition for your attention and happiness. So as a leader – of a ministry, or a family, or a team at work or in your community – how do you stay focused on the best things each day, and push forward with hope and optimism?

(I’m sitting in a coffee shop as I write this, and just overheard a college student on the phone, “I’m tired, exhausted, burnt out”. I’ve got an exam, issues at work, my friends dog just died,” and it is going on and on. True story.)

How to navigate these turbulent days? I’m so glad you asked! I’ve landed on 4 words that help me restore and maintain my resilience in the midst of the large and small chaos and crises of each day. I often rehearse them to myself –

• Be Calm
• Be Confident
• Be Connected
• Be Curious

(Oddly enough, I was watching the Miami Dolphins on TV, and at halftime they interviewed their head coach, Mike McDaniel. As he ran off to the locker room after interview, lead commentator Mike Tirico says, “he’s casual, he’s confident, and he’s connected…” I think he was probably curious as well about what to do in the second half. haha Seriously, I had already been speaking on these 4 points before he said that. )

Back to my four words. Okay, technically 8 words. Let’s just say this is a way to practice and ultimately embody, Courageous Resilience. Because its easier to just drift along than to keep after what is important to you. Or to just get distracted by all the noise in the culture at large, and decide to lay low and hope to ride things out until it gets a little saner out there. Or maybe get an adrenaline jolt by going to social media, but it ends in several hours of doom scrolling, and you decelerate completely.

So, here’s a simple way to fight against all of that. 4 Actions. Let’s take a look at each one is separate posts in the days ahead.
#1 Be Calm.

If you prefer the British version: Keep calm and carry on. (Here’s a brief origin of the phrase)
Be Calm. Nice sentiment. But how exactly…?

A great starting point is to remember that God is in control, though the world, or your organization, or your life seem out of control.
The song recorded in Psalm 46:10 tells us what God would say to someone when VUCA is everywhere. “Be still, and know that I am God.” You’ve probably heard this phrase many times. But what makes it so powerful is that the songwriter has previously brought up even “if the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea” (vs 2), i.e. the worst-case scenario. Or, if the nations are at war (vs. 6). He imagines some VUCA-like scenarios. But he sings – God is going to be the Victor, and that His presence with His people is like a steady and powerful river with streams that refresh and give life. God is referred to as our refuge, strength, and present with us right in the middle of whatever we face. (vs. 1) And later, he’s like a fortress, a military presence that is haven in the midst of the chaos of life. (v. 7 & 11)

He is why we can be calm and not give in to fear and panic. His presence, his strength, his personal care and protection – all of this and more ensure your stability through… whatever chaos, heartbreak, trauma, you go through, including just a bad day. Not the absence of drama and conflict, but in the middle of the most dramatic upheavals you can imagine.

God tells us repeatedly through his word to not fear and to have courage. Its always based on who he is, and that he is for us – regardless of the circumstances. (Someday I’ll write some on God being for us, and how life changing that simple thought is.)

Psalm 27:14 is connected to remembering: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Second, to remember well, you usually have to do some waiting. Waiting is useless, unless we remember who God is. This kind of waiting isn’t passive. Its an active kind of anticipation, alert to who God is and how he will “show up” in the situation. It’s claiming his presence by faith, even when we don’t feel it or see it this moment. Its not waiting for the chaos to stop before I can be calm again.

This is the first step of an antidote for the anxieties, behaviors, and even some maladies that come from living in constant fear and dread. We live in a VUCA world – you can’t avoid that. But when we tether ourselves to God through remembering and waiting, we connect with the spiritual reality that he is stronger than the momentous earthquakes of our day.

Be Calm. Remember. Wait… take your fear to the Lord. Lather, rinse, repeat. Every day.

For a deeper dive: you might reflect on these questions:
• Who or What am I often afraid of?
• Who or What am I abiding in today?
• Who or What do I cherish that I’m afraid of losing?

Next time – Step #2: be confident. Coming soon.

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