■ Dr. Richard Puls / Contributed
Nothing seems to get some people down. Lose a job? They smile and say that they’ll simply find a new one. Car breaks down and it appears beyond repair? They express gratitude for the good service it provided and don’t worry about finding another one. Diagnosed with a long-term illness? They adjust to the changes and face life with a positive attitude.
Aren’t they annoying?
Even though they have disappointments and hardships, they bounce back quicker and seem to thrive in all circumstances. Why aren’t they more disillusioned and cynical like the rest of us?
Perhaps secretly, we wish that we were more like them. In recent years, psychologists have done a great deal of research on the concept of resilience. As defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.
I have a friend who I met in junior high. He contracted poliomyelitis when he was a toddler, about a year or two before Jonas Salk developed the first polio vaccine. It led to paralysis of his legs. He got around using braces and crutches or a wheelchair. He faced one of the toughest challenges life can throw at a person. Yet, he is one of the most resilient people I know.
Older adults can display just as much resilience as children, even though they may face continual challenges with health, loss of loved ones, and loneliness.”
We skateboarded, surfed, and attended concerts together. He would often sit on the back of my bicycle as I rode it. One time one of his crutches accidently got between the spokes of the rear wheel of my bike and we were instantly thrown to the pavement. Neither of us was injured, and we laughed all the way home about the incident. He became a sold-out follower of Jesus Christ, and his faith has helped to sustain him through continual challenges and hard times.
Come near to me, please…I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” – Genesis 45:4-5
You see resilience like this in children. It’s a quality we want to help develop in them, yet resilience doesn’t just apply to the young. Older adults can display just as much resilience as children, even though they may face continual challenges with health, loss of loved ones, and loneliness.
The APA provides ways to build resilience, such as making connections, avoiding seeing crises as insurmountable problems, accepting that change is a part of living, moving toward your goals, keeping things in perspective, and maintaining a hopeful outlook.
We certainly see these characteristics in Joseph, whose story is told in the book of Genesis. Favored by his father, Jacob, his envious brothers sold Joseph into slavery. Eventually, he ran the affairs of an Egyptian household, only to be wrongly accused of sexual misconduct. Thrown into prison, his solid character showed forth, and he eventually rose to a position of prominence in Egypt after God gave him the ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams.
He used his immense skills to provide for his adopted country during a time of famine and to ultimately provide for his own family, including his brothers who had betrayed him. When he finally reveals his identity to his brothers, he says, “Come near to me, please…I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:4-5). Joseph’s resilience, anchored in his faith in God, kept him going through unbelievable difficulty, so he could save the lives of his family.
On Friday, March 2, Hemet Valley Christian Church will offer a workshop for seniors entitled, “Put Spring Back in Your Step,” beginning at 10 a.m. Learn how to feel more confident, positive, and optimistic as you move into the future, and how to thrive in all circumstances.
Dr Richard Puls is the senior pastor at Hemet Valley Christian Church, located at 330 S. Franklin Street, Hemet, Ca 92543. Dr. Puls has more than 30 years of pastoral experience. He received his bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministries from Hope International University, a master’s degree in Christian education from Grace Graduate School, a second master’s degree in counseling psychology at Pepperdine University and a doctorate in psychology at American Behavioral Studies Institute. As a therapist, he has counseled hundreds of individuals and couples, spoken on topics of change and growth, led seminars on psychological issues, and taught graduate courses on therapy.