The importance of resilience

By Rob Furlong
Every successful sprinter will tell you that the key to winning is keeping your focus on the finish line. Never look to see where your opponent is and most certainly, never look back!
In his wonderful book, A Resilient Life, Gordon MacDonald writes “…there are some (people) who stand out from all the rest…the further they run, the stronger they get…”
He calls such people “resilient ones” and describes the qualities he has observed in them; qualities that are the reasons behind the strong impression they leave on people.
The same thought can be applied to marriages. Why is it that some marriages make it through the toughest of times – even emerging from them stronger – when other marriages fall apart?
It comes back to one word: resilience.
Resilient marriages are committed to finishing strong.
One of the more negative aspects to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis is the fact that people are not as resilient as they once were.
To put it bluntly, many of us have become psychologically flabby when it comes to dealing with what the present circumstances have thrown at us and this also includes our relationships.
But resilient people – and marriages – are committed to both running and finishing the race of life strongly: they take seriously the vows they have made to each other to be committed to each for life! To achieve this requires developing an intimate and open relationship with each other; a relationship where we can celebrate our successes but also be honest about our failings and above all, strengthen and support one another through the highs and lows of life.
Being resilient does not mean denying the realities of life – it simply means that in partnership with each other, and God, your marriage commitment grows stronger over the years.
Resilient marriages are inspired by a big-picture view of life.
Resilient people finish strong because their vision of life is not simply a large one, it is a transcendent one.
The Bible often describes resilient people as men and women of incredible faith who endured to the end, despite overwhelming odds and persistent hostility directed against them.
Why did they run with such patience and endurance?
Because they had a big picture about what God had promised them and they pressed on toward that goal.
I wrote earlier this year about the importance of having a big picture, asking the question, “What is the big picture you have for your marriage?” and along the way I have presented a few ideas to encourage you to pursue and realise that goal.
Karen and I were both raised in dysfunctional homes – who hasn’t been? – but we determined before we married that we would do things very differently in our marriage to what had been modelled to us in our families of origin.
The big picture for our marriage included things such as always resolving conflict between us and modelling this to our children, never putting our ministry before our relationship or children, and teaching and living out our faith authentically to each other and our kids.
Run with the end in mind and you will finish strong!
Resilient marriages run free of the weight of the past.
Constantly looking back is guaranteed to prevent you from finishing strong, which is why Forrest Gump said:
“You have to put the past behind you before you can move forward.”
Paul had this in mind when he wrote, “…forgetting what lies behind…I press on toward the goal…” (Philippians 3:13,14)
Resilient people – and marriages – do not allow past hurts to drag them down.
In other words, forgive each other regularly and freely, because bitterness destroys marriages.
When tough times threaten your marriage, seeking to tear it apart, remember this: resilient couples keep their focus – it’s the only way to ensure finishing strong!

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