by Grace Lee • ELCA Director of Diversity
Life is a gift, but it’s not always presented with a pretty red bow on top. In fact, life can be messy. It can give us curveballs. And we’re expected to bounce back. “Fall down 8 times, get up 9 times,” they say. But in the moments of uncertainty that we have all felt in the past several weeks, how do we become resilient?
These are 5 things God has taught me about resilience during the trials:
- It’s okay to not be okay
God wants us to be honest with him, to share our pain, our joys, and our suffering. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26 before he was crucified, he shared his agony with his Father, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me (38). My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will (39). I give my frustrations to him (experienced a lot of this earlier this week) knowing he will make my burden light (Matthew 11:28-30).
- Be comfortable with the uncomfortable
In 2015, I took a big risk professionally to leave an amazing community I had at my college alma mater. Life was comfortable. I had a great rapport on campus and I loved my job. But I knew God was calling me 7,000 miles away from my comfort zone to teach English in South Korea as a Fulbright Scholar. God asked me to put my faith and my identity in Him, to understand that who I am in Christ is more important than any job title or reputation I have. Jesus told Peter on the rocky waters in Matthew 14:29 to “Come. So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.”
- Let your will be done
I prayed these five words on my way to the police station after being pick-pocketed during a study abroad trip. My passport, cash, and credit cards were all stolen (Travel hint – don’t put all of your valuable documents and money in one place like I did). I remained calm and despite the unexpected happening, I knew God was in control. My trip was extended four extra days, which gave me an opportunity to explore more of the hidden spots that I couldn’t visit on the original study abroad schedule. When things happen outside of my control, “Let your will be done” is the focus of my prayer to surrender my needs and desires to God’s will.
- Practice gratitude
Henry Ward Beecher says “Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” Gratitude takes practice and it may not always come easy. Circumstances cannot take away my joy, even through the foreclosure of our family hotels. These struggles for my family saved my grandfather. His health deteriorated quickly during this process, yet God was faithful through it all. My grandfather accepted Christ into his heart while on his deathbed, a decision he made that no one expected in our family. But that’s how good God is. He exceeds our expectations and performs miracles – we just have to open our eyes to see them.
- God’s purpose > my circumstances
Yes, the circumstances are not ideal. I miss physical connection with friends. I miss the joy of hugging colleagues and students roaming the hallways at ELCA. I miss Mr. Gilliam’s daily announcements that start off our day with prayer. I miss going to the gym. I miss our old way of life.
But there’s something God has taught me in the midst of this new normal – steadfastness. This is my new favorite word as Mr. Gilliam has shared this phrase in multiple meetings since the start of the quarantine. He has shared about James 1: 2-4 which says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Our circumstances have definitely changed, but the one thing that remains the same through the ages is this….God’s love for us. We are complete in him, lacking nothing. That’s what the cross and resurrection teaches us. Life looks completely different, but God is tugging at my heart to say, “My love for you hasn’t changed. I’ve stripped away a lot of the noise and the busyness so you can find the one thing that is most important – Me.”
In this new season, God is asking me to not be afraid to share my faith. People are searching for hope and answers, and as a Christian, I know I have the greatest gift in the world – unconditional grace. I find hope in God who sustains me through my weaknesses and gives me joy through my suffering.
Whatever God is teaching you in this new season, I pray he will do the immeasurably more than you ask or imagine, according to his power that is in work within you (Ephesians 3:20). “Deserts will bloom in the light of your love. Even in the wilderness, through confusion and barrenness, you are beautiful, God.” (Lyrics from “Never Run Dry” by Housefires).
Grace Lee started her journey at ELCA as an 8th grade student until she graduated her senior year, class of 2008. Receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Public Policy from Georgia State University, she worked in Undergraduate Admissions for six years as a student tour guide and Admissions Counselor. After teaching English in South Korea as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, she started working at ELCA in 2016. Since then, she’s taught pre-school, middle school English, and now serves as our Director of Diversity. In this role, she is the coordinator of our student and staff Diversity Councils and helps build cultural diversity through events, professional development, and classroom activities. In her spare time, she loves hiking in north Georgia mountains and getting lost in time with nature photography.