Story: The Resilience of Jesus
God was delighted with his world, but not with the behaviour of his children. They were doing the one thing he’d asked them not to – deciding for themselves what was right and wrong. Soon his ‘clever’ children had stopped listening to their heavenly father. Instead they kidded themselves that it was fine to steal, to make war, to ignore the hungry, to pollute the rivers . . . Like straying sheep, they went their own way!
But God still loved his children. So much so, that he planned to send his own son Jesus into the world, a kindly shepherd who would gather his flock into the fold. Jesus would even pay the price for people’s mistakes by dying on a cross. But that would not be the end . . .
From the word go, it was not an easy life for Jesus. God gave him loving parents. But they were far from home when Mary gave birth and Jesus was born in a poor stable. Then they had to flee from cruel Herod. Refugees! But his childhood in Nazareth was peaceful, learning useful building skills from Joseph.
God provided Jesus with an older cousin John who prepared everyone to listen to his message about living God’s way – the way of kindness. But no sooner had he been baptised, than he was tempted by the Devil. Tempted to use his God- given talents for his own power and pleasure. His utter determination to do God’s will enabled him to resist and he voiced this in words of Scripture that he knew by heart.
At least the Devil recognized Jesus as the Son of God! Many people did not – especially those in his own town of Nazareth, where he was rejected. He was often criticized and questioned in a hostile manner but he parried with a question of his own to make others think. His close friends were a support and he taught them to love their enemies and to do good to those who hated them.
Even his best friends did not understand his real mission – especially when he revealed that he would suffer and be killed. But he resolutely set out for Jerusalem, saying, “I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day . . .”
What a welcome there was for Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday! But within a week, the same crowd was demanding his death. He was betrayed by Judas, arrested, mocked, insulted, spat upon, flogged, disowned by Peter and nailed to a cross on Good Friday. He died.
But he was victorious over death and on Easter Day he rose again. He had fulfilled his purpose to heal man’s broken relationship with God.
Pause for thought: There is no getting away from the fact that life is full of ups and downs. We all need a certain amount of resilience or toughness, to be able to survive the bad times and to provide the capacity to bounce back again afterwards.
Throughout his life and particularly at the end of it, Jesus suffered more than most (see the Bible story above). Knowing that he had to face death on the cross, he nevertheless resolutely set out for Jerusalem to do his Father’s will. Along the way, he faced temptation, rejection of his ministry, threats, betrayal, mocking, insults, he was spat upon, flogged and was killed. He survived it all, even conquering death itself for our sakes.
Children today face a particularly insidious problem in the form of online pressures and bullying. This can be constant since iphones go with them everywhere and parents may not be aware of what is happening. In our competitive world, there is also the pressure to succeed in all sorts of subjects and activities set against a background of complicated family set ups.
So how can we help our children to build reservoirs of strength to draw upon? Perhaps we can ensure that they have a positive view of themselves by being generous with praise. At the baptism of Jesus, and at the start of his ministry, Jesus heard God say to him, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” We need to show too that our love is not conditional upon achievement, but that they are loved for themselves.
Jesus surrounded himself with a group of close friends. We can encourage our children to join in with others, perhaps at one of our church groups, and we can welcome their friends into our homes. In such groups they can learn to share problems and support one another.
We know that Jesus often withdrew to a lonely place to pray. Again, we can build quiet times (without phones!) into our hectic lives giving our children the space to think and pray, and allowing them the chance to get things back into perspective.
Psychologists say that resilient people have a sense of purpose, making realistic plans and sticking to them. They are flexible enough to embrace change and are able to maintain a hopeful outlook despite what is going on. Here are a few family activities for Easter that might encourage resilience!
Sweet and sour recipe: Prepare an easy family meal using a ready-made sweet and sour sauce from the supermarket. Put any phones away and read the story above together. As you eat, chat about the sweet and sour aspects of Jesus’ life on earth.
What do family members find easy or difficult in their lives today? Share how you each deal with these things. Do people agree that a problem shared is a problem halved?
Ups and downs: Start playing some easy board games, such as Snakes and Ladders or Ludo, with young children to get them used to set-backs. At first, they may be upset at having to move a counter backwards on the board. But persevere and demonstrate a light-hearted attitude yourself at moving your own counter back.
The good news and the bad news: Play this game on a car journey or a long walk. One person starts a story about a character setting out to achieve a goal, but unfortunately . . . they run into a problem. The next person takes over the story, saying fortunately . . . and then provides a solution until unfortunately . . . etc. Keep the mini-story going for several minutes until the character achieves their goal and it is someone else’s turn to start a new story.
No gain without pain: It can be useful to learn to think positively about things we have to do but may not look forward to! For example, on the way to the dentist, chat about:
- What would happen if we did not have our teeth checked
- Modern dentistry methods as opposed to earlier ones
- The short time in the dentist’s chair compared to the year!
Can everyone think up some positive thoughts about a cold, rainy day in the Easter holidays, an exam, a boring chore, etc!
What did we all gain from the pain Jesus suffered on Good Friday?
How do I look? Make a regular habit of complimenting children on their natural good looks, especially when they are least expecting it! “Your hair looks such a beautiful colour in the sunshine,” etc! When teenagers are getting ready for a party, you could say things like, “I know its fun to wear a bit of makeup, but with your beautiful eyes/lips/cheekbones, you really you don’t need it!” Give them confidence as they set off. “Wow! You look like a film star!”
Try to give young children the words they need to deal with run-of-the-mill hurtful comments from others. For instance, “If I were you, I’d tell him/her to go to Specsavers!” “Well, if they are going to say that sort of thing, I should think you ought to say, ‘[name], I’ve had enough of you for the moment’ and walk away.”
A home for bees and bugs: Help the mini-beasts in your garden to be resilient by making them a home. As a family activity, build a stack with various unwanted materials such as wooden pallets (good as a base), bricks (to keep the structure together), old terracotta plant pots, etc. Stuff the layers with bamboo canes, twigs, straw, moss and pinecones. Build in semi-shade and cover with something to keep the rain out, such as roof tiles. Mini-beasts will help keep pests away and also pollinate, helping your garden to be fruitful!