Popular therapists often refer to healthy families and healthy people as resilient. The notion finds fertile ground among corporations, the government and churches because it captures the idea of being able to withstand struggle and adversity. According to the American Psychological Association, “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even 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.”[1]

The Church calls pastors to Word and Sacrament ministries in order to nurture and sustain the men, women and children of their congregations. Pastors fulfill their callings by faithfully proclaiming the Gospel, administering the Sacraments and properly caring for their flocks. Every congregation is unique; yet, the common bond among them is the Word and the Sacraments.

Pastors proclaim the Word of Life in and out of season—personal struggles and needs are set aside for the sake of their flocks. Through their faithful preaching and teaching, parishioners grow in grace. Called to faith in Baptism, they grow “resilient” through ongoing Word and Sacrament ministry. This resilience is not merely a psychological ability to bounce back, but it is a spiritual growth and maturation in, by and through faith that hears the death knell of the law and seeks comfort in the righteousness of God through the atoning work of Jesus. 

Bouncing back from adversity or difficulty is not a human endeavor, but it is the gift of God. God pronounces His forgiveness in the words of absolution proclaimed every Sunday, when pastors declare, “Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”[2]

Such words are not only for the congregation, they are also for the called servants of the Word. Pastors may grow weary as they shepherd their flocks; yet, there is hope to bounce back but not by human endeavor. Rather, pastoral resilience is a gift of God, too.

Temptations abound to perform ministry by personal strength, intellect and persuasion. All such self-guided efforts lead to despair. There is hope, however. Resilient shepherds find consolation in the words of absolution, “. . . and for His sake forgives you all your sins.”

May every flock and every shepherd grow in resilience as they receive the forgiveness of sins and feast at the table of life.

[1]“What is Resilience?” Copyright Information Online. n.d. http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/what-is-resilience (accessed August 16, 2012).

[2] “Divine Service Setting One”. LSB, page 151