The Resilience Factor

By Doug Carver

“I just returned from Joshua Tree near Twentynine Palms, California. I went there out of desperation to find peace and a reason to live after my recent divorce and the death of two family members.” (A fellow airline passenger)

“My pastor stood behind the pulpit without emotion and said, ‘This is my last sermon. I’ve given away all my library books except one Bible and I’ve thrown away all my sermons. I’m done!’” (A prayer request from a church member for their pastor)

Life is hard. Chaplains hear stories all the time from people who have given up on life or are on the verge of doing so. If we’re truly honest, we’ve occasionally thought about “throwing in the towel” ourselves.

Sometimes a chaplain simply gets tired of dealing with the administrative bureaucracy, fighting for their place at the table, defending their relevancy within the institution, or even struggling for respect and camaraderie among their fellow chaplains.

In his book, Resilient: Restoring Your Weary Soul in These Troubling Times, Christian author John Eldredge writes, “The longing for things to be good again (after a life crisis) is one of the deepest yearnings of the human heart. How we shepherd this longing — how we listen to it but also guide it in right or wrong directions — determines our fate.”

The beginning of the COVID pandemic in 2020 ushered us into a new season of ministry. It has kept us in a constant state of vigilance, precaution, uncertainty and fear. It has often left us exhausted and isolated.

Today most of you continue to minister within your institutional settings — to people struggling to bounce back to their “new normal”— while having no personal energy or reserves to prepare for future traumas.

In Luke 21:36, Jesus warns His disciples, “But be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all those things that are going to take place…” in the Last Days. The Lord urges believers to pray to God for His strength that prevails, endures, sustains and overcomes all of life’s challenging seasons.

He also urges us to “be alert,” especially during those circumstances that tempt us to check out of life, quit the ministry or abandon our faith.

Chaplains, the prevailing strength God promises to us is more than sufficient for all our battles. It’s the primary source of resilience, allowing us to “bounce back,” bend without breaking, stand up after getting knocked down, return to the fight and endure stressful times knowing God’s grace is sufficient for all.

I pray you grab hold of God’s strength in this time of “cultural convulsions” and spiritual forces that increasingly tempt you to quit. Pray for God’s prevailing strength in your ministry that even overpowers the gates of hell!

The secret begins with our choice to surrender our life and ministry wholeheartedly to the Lord. Here’s the promise: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9, CSB).

Published September 21, 2022

Doug Carver

Doug Carver, NAMB Executive Director of the Chaplaincy, serves as the senior advisor to NAMB and the Southern Baptist Convention on the chaplaincy ministry. He leads the NAMB Chaplaincy’s Team daily support to over 3,300 endorsed Southern Baptist chaplains.