Devotional cover: Building resilience to combat life’s difficulties

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Patty Hendricks speaks at devotional on Aug. 24 Photo credit: BYU-Idaho

On Aug. 24, Patty Hendricks, a BYU-Idaho curriculum designer, gave her devotional address, “Resilience: The Ability to Recover from Difficulties.”

Hendricks emphasized the importance of developing resilience in order to learn and grow from difficult challenges.

“During challenging times some people become bitter, while others develop empathy, courage and faith,” Hendricks said. “So how do you get the good stuff? I believe that resilience is the key.”

Hendricks described resilience as an attribute attainable to anyone who is willing to put in the necessary work. She suggested five different things people can do to build their ability to withstand trials.

1. Build connections

Hendricks told students to prioritize building connections with loved ones during difficult times rather than isolating themselves.

She discussed the story of Job, a wealthy man who exhibited faith and praised God even after losing all of his family and possessions. Job later had more children and received many blessings from God. Hendricks explained that, at first, she was troubled by the thought that Job’s children were merely replaced.

“That part of the story once troubled me,” Hendricks said. “I wondered about God replacing Job’s children with new ones. Are people interchangeable? Did the children not matter anymore than the sheep, camels, oxen and asses. Doesn’t God value each individual?”

However, as Hendricks continued to ponder Job’s story, she discovered a deeper meaning.

“Often when people experience adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress, they close down and isolate themselves,” Hendricks said. “I believe that Job’s miracle wasn’t that he was given new children; instead, it was that he opened his heart to his new children and loved again.”

Hendrick’s brother, Chris, passed away at the age of 14. Her family deeply mourned his loss. However, as time passed, healing came as they opened their hearts and built connections with others.

“Like Job, my parents stayed up many nights crying, contemplating, worrying, wondering, writing, thinking and praying. Little by little, they began to open their hearts and their lives. As mission presidents in Alaska, they allowed themselves to love their missionaries. They learned and cared about each one individually. They didn’t stop missing Chris. They certainly didn’t forget him. But love helped them heal.”

Hendricks said that, like Job, her parents were blessed. They welcomed grandchildren into the world, and their family grew. She explained that the new additions to the family never acted as a replacement for Chris, but the act of opening their hearts helped them become more resilient and experience a greater abundance of love.

Patty Hendricks and her family. Photo from Patty Hendricks.
Patty Hendricks and her family.

2. Foster well-being

Hendricks pleaded with students to turn to God during difficult times rather than engaging in addictive and damaging behaviors.

“I will plead with you, please, please, please don’t use addictive behaviors to mask your intense feelings,” Hendricks said. “Addictive behaviors provide a dopamine rush that can mask or tone down the intensity of your feelings.”

Hendricks encouraged students to turn to God through prayer and study. She also invited them to try breathing techniques or meditation.

“Simple coping strategies such as, prayer, scripture study, meditation and simple breathing techniques will serve you much better,” Hendricks said. “These simple coping strategies will give you the strength to understand and face your intense feelings.”

Once while experiencing intense emotions, Hendricks felt prompted to meditate and open her heart. As she followed this prompting, she was able to heal and become more resilient in her own life.

“I was sitting quietly in my bedroom, and taking deep breaths,” Hendricks said. “But soon I noticed that I had my arms tightly crossed across my heart. I thought, ‘How can I open my heart, if I’m tightly protecting it?’ Over the next couple of years, I was able to explore my intense feelings. Slowly I was able to alternate between protecting my heart and opening it. Meditation and prayer helped me recognize, understand, accept and start to heal my intense feelings.”

3. Focus on what you can do

She told the story of Drusilla Hendricks, a woman who raised five children after her husband was paralyzed from the neck down as a result of being shot in his pursuit to protect Latter-day Saints from mobs in 1838.

“In 1847, Drusilla’s family again were forced to run from the danger of an angry mob,” Hendricks said. “They traveled 300 miles to Council Bluff, Iowa. There the U.S. Army ordered Brigham Young to give them 500 soldiers to march to California and fight in the war against Mexico.”

Hendricks described that Drusilla’s son, William, wanted to join the 500 soldiers and fight. Letting her son go was difficult for a loving mother to do, but she shifted her focus to what she could do and trusted in God.

Painting by Elspeth Young
Painting by Elspeth Young

“I wonder if Drusilla initially focused on why she couldn’t let William go,” Hendricks said. “He was only 16, not even old enough to enlist. Besides she needed him; her husband was paralyzed from the neck down. Her children were young. But then I notice how she changed her focus. In my head I hear her say, ‘I can’t stop William. I can’t heal my husband. What can I do? Take a picture of William in my mind. I can do that. I can do that.'”

Hendricks invited students to focus on what they can do in their lives amidst trials. She testified that God will be by their side as they turn to Him for help and then act.

“I believe that when we focus on what we can do and then ask Heavenly Father to consecrate our performance for the welfare of our souls, He will answer our prayers,” Hendricks said. “You do not need to become bitter! Heavenly Father will increase your resilience and help you grow and thrive.”

4. Show up

Hendricks invited students to get out of bed and just show up. She explained that hiding from life’s difficulties only leads to more difficulties.

“It’s ironic, but avoiding the problem often increases the problem,” Hendricks said. “In the long run, it’s easier to just show up.”

5. Get help

Hendricks explained that life’s difficulties never need to be faced alone. She encouraged students to visit the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s self-reliance website.

She also informed students that BYU-I offers resources for those who need help or someone to talk to.

“The BYU-I Counseling Center offers students web-based therapy assistance, individual, couples, and group counseling,” Hendricks said. “I encourage you to take advantage of these resources.”

Hendricks urged students to work on these strategies through both good and bad times. She testified that Christ makes resilience possible, and life’s difficulties can be a source of strength rather than a downfall.

“I encourage you to practice these strategies when life is good, and also when you are experiencing adversity, trauma, tragedy, threat or significant stress,” Hendricks said. “I also testify that adversity, trauma, tragedy, threat or significant stress doesn’t need to be your downfall. Moroni teaches us that we can rely upon Christ because he is the author and the finisher of our faith. I testify that because of Christ, resilience is possible.”