It’s always good to have a plan. I remember a black church elder I visited with years ago who told me, “You need to plan your work and then work your plan.”

More than ever these days the plans we make are subject to change.

“Productivity” looks different right now than it did six months ago. And, most of the people we work with are likely dealing with issues very similar to ours. The mission for us is to be a living example of the things we hope to receive from others. It’s giving grace to co-workers, to children and to ourselves.

It’s true that our current circumstances come with real challenges. But, it’s also true that we have the power to choose how we respond. We can see them as setbacks that are causing us pain or as opportunities to draw our families closer than ever.

One of the blogs from which I get a monthly online newsletter is called Option B. The mission of this group is structured around building resilience in the face of adversity. Per its theory, resilience is like a muscle that has to be built up.

A refugee from Syria who came to the United States to go to graduate school was featured in one posting. She shared a unique angle in how she was forced to start life over after connections with her family were severed. Her father had been arrested and his whereabouts were unknown, while her mother and siblings fled to neighboring Turkey seeking asylum. She knew no one in this country outside of her sponsors at school.

“One way to work through difficulty is to tell a story,” she said. “We all have stories to tell from our families and life experiences.”

Telling stories helped her to become an independent blogger while supporting herself as a restaurant server, even while she has to protect herself with an assumed identity.

Former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords from Arizona survived an assassination attempt in 2011 that radically changed her life.

“You may find that after times of tragedy or struggle, your cherished traditions change,” she wrote. “Some may disappear. Others may just need to wait, for now. But if you leave yourself open to them, new ones will appear – and you’ll find causes for celebration and types of resolve that you may not have otherwise imagined.”

The refugee said that resilience is a choice of us “happening to life” rather than letting life happen to us.

“It takes time, determination and effort to step up to where we can inspire, encourage and help others,” she wrote. “It’s making a choice to step out of complacency and into action.”

She cautioned that we must set realistic expectations for our actions to be viable.

An ancient itinerant preacher once wrote to a group of his disciples.

“Always be humble and gentle,” St. Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers. “Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults…”

A commentator offered an observation that replacing pride with lowliness better positions us to successfully interact with others as we deal with setbacks. While self-esteem is important for survival, it needs to be balanced with meekness to give us the discernment to avoid provoking others, especially if we think we’ve got the better idea.

“The best Christians have need to bear one with another, and to make the best one of another, to provoke one another’s graces and not their passions,” he wrote. “Pride and passion break the peace and make all the mischief. Humility and meekness restore the peace and keep it.”

In his new book “The Seamless Life,” Regent College professor Steven Garber observed, “None of us can care for everything everywhere. So, we choose to care about something somewhere.”

I find that stepping up to be a helping hand in a situation that I can either handle or learn from builds up that muscle of resilience. Then I can better plan my work and hopefully work my plan, be it Option B or even C.

John Ward is a staff writer for the Monroe Journal. He can be reached at

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