This morning’s ABC News headline caught my eye: “Dog Swims Over 6 Miles to Reunite With Family After Falling Off Boat in Lake Michigan.” The ten-month-old puppy fell overboard, swam to shore, then walked over twelve miles to a campground where she was reunited with her family the next day.
Now consider another story of resilience. Humans have long aspired to go to Mars, but six months of travel and life in claustrophobic conditions make the psychological part of the expedition as daunting as the physical. ICE environments (isolated, confined, and extreme) have long challenged explorers.
That’s why six astronauts spent twelve months in isolation on a simulated Martian plain. The three-woman, three-man crew lived in a dome-shaped habitat on a lava plain on the flank of Mauna Loa in Hawaii. They worked in conditions as close to Martian as science could make them. And they proved that humans are often as resilient as we need to be.
To many Christians, our culture feels more Martian by the day. As a recent article noted, “Many conservative Christians just don’t feel welcome in their own country. They say they are either mocked or erased in popular culture.” One pastor asked, “When was the last time you saw an evangelical or conservative Christian character portrayed positively on TV?”
But God promises, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Scripture enjoins us: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Rather than viewing negative cultural shifts as cause for retreat, let’s use them to strengthen our commitment to serving Jesus. In this context, consider David Brooks’s latest column in The New York Times. In his view, personal strength is a product of personal significance.
He notes that “people are much stronger than they think they are when in pursuit of their telos, their purpose for living.” He quotes Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
Brooks concludes: “We are all fragile when we don’t know what our purpose is, when we haven’t thrown ourselves with abandon into a social role, when we haven’t committed ourselves to certain people, when we feel like a swimmer in an ocean with no edge. If you really want people to be tough, make them idealistic for some cause, make them tender for some other person, make them committed to some worldview that puts today’s temporary pain in the context of a larger hope.”
Ella Wheeler Wilcox makes Brooks’s point well:
One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow.
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
Which tells us the way to go.
Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate,
As we voyage along through life:
‘Tis the set of a soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.
What is the set of your soul today?