Be Resilient – the struggle is real but the outcome is foretold. 6 principles of resilience.

Well, this has been a busy few weeks. Between working a crazy amount of hours, my course work (working toward Advanced PA degree to better serve my patients here and in Togo), teaching PA students, fund raising, and all of the hundreds of things that need to be taken care of before leaving for the mission field, busyness has given birth to a great deal of stress.

I don’t know if you have ever been so busy that you struggle to be productive, but that’s where we are at right now. If not for the amazing stamina and ability of Elizabeth, I’d probably be in a stress-induced coma right now. I’ve been barely able to get out of the bed in the morning, and when I come home, even finding the energy to take a shower seems a chore.

I’ve encountered this kind of busyness and stress a few other times in my life. I think back to when I was a paramedic, working four 12+ hour night shifts every week while managing a full-time load in college, or PA school where we would be in class 9 hours per day and have another 8 hours of studying to do after class while practically living off bread and water for a couple of years.

Just when you think you can’t fit anything else into your schedule, something else gets added.

During my hour or so commute into and home from work, I like to listen to audio books. They are a nice escape from the utter boredom and monotony of the drive. Some of the books I’ve been listening too lately have had a common theme, resilience.

One was about the resilience of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the resilience of soldiers in the second world war, the resilience of Paul in the face of Christian persecution in Rome, and the resilience of missionaries in Africa at the turn of the 20th century. These stories have been humbling, and encouraging. One recent podcast I heard asked the question, “What has happened to the gritty missionaries?” and gave examples like CT Studd, Jim Elliot, Rachel Saint, and Hudson Taylor (if you don’t know who these people are, I strongly suggest looking them up).

And then there was one more book written by a researcher on the psychological strategies of Navy SEALS who are successful with their arduous training. It gave some excellent principles of resiliency that we might all benefit from in the face of difficult times.

Here they are:

#1: You are responsible for absolutely everything

  • Stop Pointing the finger and trying to blame others. Realize that you and you alone are responsible for your own life. If you want to do something, do it. Take extreme ownership.

#2: He who has a why to live can bear almost any how

  • Pursue a mission. When you have a higher purpose – a mission – grit, self-discipline, perseverance, and incredible mental toughness is a natural consequence. So find your “why”.

#3: Create a mental trigger to get through the direst situations

  • Create a mental image – a “trigger” – of the one thing in this world that is most important to you. When you face the direst of situations or are on the brink, pull the trigger and remind yourself of this image.

#4: Systems, processes, and discipline equals freedom

  • Create a daily routine. Create systems and processes in your life so that you can get things done faster and more efficiently

#5: The 4 keys to mental toughness

  1. Set goals. Set bite-sized goals. Focus on what is right in front of you, not on all the pain and suffering yet to come. Create small goals that move you toward a larger goal – your mission, your “higher purpose”.
  2. Mentally prepare. Mentally visualize any tough situations you need to go through in order to train your mind to remain calm, cool, and collected during these stressful situations rather than going into it’s instinctive “fight, flight, or freeze” mode.
  3. Master self-talk. Talk to yourself positively. Create a powerful prayer, memorize a bible verse, or a short, encouraging statement of your own making to repeat to yourself in times of hardship.
  4. Arousal control. When in incredibly demanding and stressful situations, practice the 4×4 deep breathing technique (take a breath in for 4 seconds and out for four seconds). It will help to physiologically override your brain and body’s instinctive stress response and get your mind and body back in the game.

#6: The 3 components of resilience

  1. Have a mission. A higher purpose. The relates directly back to principle #2 – he who has a why can bear almost any how
  2. If applicable to your own life, use the power of teamwork to achieve specific goals.
  3. Reframe difficulty as growth. See failure, hardship, and pain not as something to be avoided but as something to be embraced as a way to develop oneself and grow.

#7: The 40% rule

  • When you feel like you’re done and can’t possibly do any more, realize that you’re still only at 40% mark. You’ve still got 60% left in the tank, so roll up those sleeves, grit those teeth, and push on.


To achieve goal, we must experience mistakes, stumbling, failure, and disappointment. In medicine, ministry, and life these are daily experiences. The resilient people get back to their feet, dust off their pants and, like Captain America, look that obstacle or failure in the eye and say “I can do this all day.”

Here are some Bible verses that have been helpful for me, and knowing the context of each as a source of inspiration is also helpful:

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

2 Timothy 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Micah 7:8 Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Hebrews 10:36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.


I’m preaching to myself right now, but in a world that seems increasingly hostile to those who stand firm in their faith, remember that we are not at war with mankind, but with principalities, and our strength comes from the Lord.

Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.


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