Issue 6: Embracing the Moments When Your Entire Life Changes

Fellow Resilient Warrior,

Greetings in the Ultimate Resilient Warrior, Jesus! We have discussed the reality of disappointment, heartache, and trauma in each of our lives. Jesus likewise went through this — Hebrews 12:1-3 summarizes it well:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

What a storehouse of rich Biblical truth and encouragement!

“Who for the JOY set before Him endured the cross…” — sounds impossible, yet with God all things are possible. With God, Jesus endured the cross with JOY… and with God, so can we endure the trials and tribulations of our human journey.
“For consider Him…” — what an encouragement to have an example of one who stayed the course, ultimately bouncing back all the way to the “throne of God” — now that’s resilience! That’s also the resilience we have in Jesus.
Finally, “… so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” — Jesus did this for us! As we “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,” we gain endurance (not grow weary – physical strength) and encouragement (not lose heart) – emotional strength). We all need some to that!

This week we walk the path of “Bouncing Back” with a brother who lost a beloved young son. He briefly describes the excruciating journey, the lessons he is learning about resilience, and his ongoing efforts to bounce back without getting stuck in the toxic emotions of guilt, false guilt, anger, and bitterness. While the reality of trauma is often theoretical when it happens to others; it is real and raw when it happens to us. Charles George’s inspiring and ongoing Profile in Resilience is instructive and inspiring. We do well to learn from his journey as each of us prepare for our own storms of life.

As well, we include our normal resilience resource and stimulate your thoughts about another question from the Resilience Training Game.

In case you haven’t discovered it, our Resilience God Style website (newsletter tab) has an archive of all RGS newsletter content archived for your future reference, or for you to share with others.

My prayer for each of us continues to be that we might learn and model Christ-like resilience as we navigate the storms of life and help others do the same. Related to this newsletter edition, we collectively pray for those of you (or friends and family) who must struggle with the tragic loss of a loved one, particularly a child. May God comfort, heal, and instill you with hope and peace that pass all understanding. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Resilience God Style allows us to be the overcomers which God intended us to be.

Respectfully in Christ,

Bob Dees

Gaining Altitude

“One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that it is not the events in our life that determines the outcome, but our response to the events is what determines the outcome of our life.”

Embracing the Moments When Your Entire Life Changes

by Charles George

I recently attended a thought-provoking and insightful Resilience Conference conducted by Bob Dees. What made this conference significant to me is the timing. Four years ago on July 30, 2015, I experienced one of the most devastating days of my life. It was a day when my entire life changed.

Getting Ready for the Storm

Bob shared the three phases of becoming resilient. He calls this the Resilient Life Cycle. The first phase is “Getting Ready and Preparing for the Storm.”

My son, Thomas, was born with congenital heart disease. Because of his complex heart condition, Thomas needed three heart surgeries and two other major life-saving operations. Thomas had his first two heart surgeries and the two major life-saving operations before he turned one year old. During this time, he stayed in the hospital for about 8 months out of the first year of his life.

The stress of watching my son fight for his life each day was unbelievable. Parents who have children with complex medical needs, face so many different challenges. Personally, there is only one other time in my life where I felt more stress and was more challenged emotionally, physically, and mentally than the 1st year of Thomas’ life. This stress and these experiences during this first year were preparing me for the real storm that was about to occur in my life.

Holding On and Weathering the Storm

The second phase Bob shared was Holding On and “Weathering The Storm.” Once Thomas was able to come home after his second heart surgery, he was still very sick. To survive, he had an oxygen tank, a pulse ox, a lot of other equipment, and many different drugs. But Thomas slowly recovered and gained strength each day. During the next two years, Thomas recovered, and he began to thrive. He was weaned off the drugs. He could breathe on his own and required very little equipment to function. He was a happy, charming, and engaging boy, full of life and personality. He loved everyone and even got strong enough to run and play with other children. He loved life!

This time, although stressful, was the best two years of my life. There was no greater honor than being Thomas’ Dad. This was the highest calling of my life.

The Approaching Category 5 Hurricane 

On July 13, 2015, Thomas had his third heart surgery. According to the pediatric cardiologists, this was supposed to be the easiest of the three heart surgeries.

On July 29, Thomas was doing extremely well. July 30 was a whole new day. 
Thomas awoke with a high temperature. Doctors were concerned. About 11: 05 AM, Thomas started struggling to breathe. We quickly notified the doctors who put him on oxygen and then a ventilator. For the next few moments, we thought everything was going to be okay until Thomas’ heart stopped beating.

For the next 48 minutes, the team of doctors and nurses did everything possible to save Thomas’ life. I stayed in the room and watched in hopes that my presence would inspire Thomas to continue to fight. I never gave up hope, and I always believed in him. I still do!

On August 3, three weeks from the day of his third heart surgery, Thomas took his last breath. This was the most devastating day and event of my life.

Bouncing Back

The third stage of resilience is bouncing back.

Bob uses the metaphor of a tennis ball when bouncing back. Often when you bounce a tennis ball, it bounces much higher after the first bounce. The goal of resilience is not to return to the same level you once were but to make your life even better than before. This is difficult to achieve but can be accomplished.

Thomas dying affected me in profound ways.

First, the emotional lows were unbelievably low, and like nothing I have ever experienced. I had to learn to navigate these emotions in a healthy, positive way, and not let self-destructive emotions and behaviors become a reality. This was unbelievably challenging, but I succeeded.

Thomas’ death challenged some of my fundamental thoughts about life.
It challenged my views of success and failure. Plus, I had to rediscover who I am and reaffirm my core skills. I was called to use my marketing skills to help organizations who provide support for families experiencing similar situations. 
Again, I succeeded, and these other organizations helped more families.

Finally, it made me come to terms with who I am and prepare myself for the next phase of my life.

Accepting and Embracing the Bounce

Even though I didn’t realize at the time, a big part of Bob’s conference, Saturday, was me accepting and embracing the bounce.

Ever since Thomas’ death, I have realized the magnitude and impact of what I was experiencing. A child dying affects the parents for the rest of their lives. 

Some people never do recover. I did not want this for my life.

One of the ways that I have prepared myself for this bounce is reaching out to people with different expertise who could help me. This has included a grief counselor, a pastoral care counselor, a psychologist, several pastors, family and friends, a church family, new people in my life, joining a gym, and most importantly relying on God through scripture and prayer.

Moreover, it required, my wife and l had to learn how to connect in new and different ways, so we could support each other, and so we could maintain our marriage. This is what Bob meant about “Guarding Your Primary Relationships.”

One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that it is not the events in our life that determines the outcome, but our response to the events is what determines the outcome of our life.

After experiencing almost a decade of trials and tribulations, I’m excited about the bounce and the possibilities of the future. Onward!

This is exciting!

What do YOU think about the life lessons Charles has conveyed?
Do you have a similar life story???

Resilience Resource

This month’s Resilience Resource is the Resilience God Style Study Guide, intended to assist with the PERSONALIZATION of RGS resilience principles to one’s life journey — a great tool for those watching the RGS 9-week video series. From James, may we “prove ourselves doers of the Word.” The RGS Study Guide helps us!

Bounce Builder

Here’s A Resilience Training Game Question that addresses what we do with pain such as Charles and his bride Claire are currently bouncing back from:

How would your team answer this question???

How would you expand the answer???

Suggested Answer: Stewardship is loosening our grip on what is in our hands (such as resources or influence), making it available to others. An example is the little boy who loosened his grip on the “loaves and fishes” which Christ multiplied to feed over 5,000 people. “Stewardship of pain” means loosening our grip on the pain in our lives and also offering it up to God, allowing us to comfort others with that which we have been comforted.

Source: Resilience God Style, pp 197-198. Bible, 2 Corinthians 1:4

From the Mailbox

~ excerpt from a father whose daughter Katie is in prison with a 20 year sentence

“I want to reassure you Katie and her immediate family are all doing amazingly well and keeping the faith while under fire. We lean on God and draw strength from each other. It certainly helps that we see God’s hand in this at every turn. Lives are being touched, as we surrender more and more we are learning to walk in the Spirit moment by moment. It is such a blessing and a privilege learning amazing spiritual truths. For example, we can be thankful for bad things and bad times because God can make good things come from them.

PS- Katie got a copy of Resilience God Style today and is excited to start reading it.”

NOTE: We’ll hear more from Katie in the future. I’ve never seen a more joyful and purposeful believer who is being a merchant of hope in a very difficult setting. Paul and Silas are no doubt cheering for her!

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