In a Crisis, Spiritual Resilience Can Pull Us Through

A photo by Andrew Small. unsplash.com/photos/Lm6mqM_KqQY

This year’s theme for Pastoral Care Week is “spiritual resilience.” What does it mean to be spiritually resilient? How can resilience help us through a crisis, like a serious illness or the death of a loved one? John Connor, a chaplain at Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG), offers his thoughts.

Resilience helps us find meaning in challenging times. 

I love the word “resilience” not only because it’s a pleasing word to say, but because it has such a delightful and positive meaning, one we often hear associated with young children. Resilience is that quality of maintaining a sense of personal identity, meaning and hope even through great challenges.

As a chaplain with our Kids Path program, I have seen very young children persevere despite catastrophic experiences and illnesses, so early on I couldn’t help but speculate: Is resilience something we forget or unlearn? We have all had times when we felt like “throwing in the towel,” but somehow, we get through it and often come out stronger.

When that happens, spiritual resilience is the key.

Crises are a test of our resilience.

Any crisis in life is a test of resilience. Many families I have encountered through the years have experienced one significant loss after another, and some have had several crises occur at the same time. Yet they are able to “soldier on.” How is that? Most would identify faith, hope and love as providing the spiritual strength to rely upon. These values are universal to all faiths, and of course, to non-religious beliefs as well.

Spiritual resilience is a journey.

We need faith, hope and love to be resilient—those deep experiences that occur in relationships with others, where connection and belonging is expressed. In other words, we need each other! That largely explains how little ones are so resilient; they are greatly loved when bad things happen, even if the love becomes available only after the trauma.

In addition, our own perspective on life—how we tend to view things—is something we learn and develop through experience and the support of others. I teach that spiritual resilience is a journey of healing and growth, where fear moves to trust, self-pity to gratitude, resentment to acceptance, dishonesty to honesty, and guilt to forgiveness.

I have learned again and again that we cannot go it alone, that spiritual resilience is best nurtured in community, where faith, hope and love is found best.

Practice self-care to nurture resilience.

Self-care is not selfish. As much as possible, take those moments to walk and breathe, enjoy music, journal, work coloring books, laugh with someone, pray, meditate or self-reflect. Doing so is as much preparatory as it is restorative. I have learned again and again that we cannot go it alone, that spiritual resilience is best nurtured in community, where faith, hope and love is found best.

So for those who are in crisis—living with an illness, caring for someone or grieving a loved one—please ask for and accept the spiritual support available to remain resilient.

John Connor, ThM, is a chaplain at Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG). A native of Greensboro, he worked in mental health counseling before pursuing his seminary degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (1990) and CPE internship and residency at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. Connor has also been involved in police and fire chaplaincy and critical stress management.  He is an avid cyclist.