Hey guys. So I know I promised a post about how awesome youth group was last night for today, but I failed to remember that I have a rather large paper to write this evening. So, tonight I am posting the paper I wrote last night.
In my Poetic and Wisdom Literature of the Bible class I took at Taylor this past semester, we were asked to read a book called Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood. The book is a collection of stories from survivors of some of the most incredible tragedies and horrors man could ever imagine (acid in the face, mauled by a lion, surviving a fiery plane crash, etc.). I would highly recommend the book, which finds the common threads of survival all of the survivors shared throughout these various tragedies. Last night, I had to write a paper that drew a couple of parallels between the survival principles presented in Sherwood’s book and surviving our walks with Christ as Christians. Below is the paper I wrote for my class. I thought it was pretty good. Enjoy!
Augustine once said, in not so few words, that all truth is God’s truth. Christians, however, must understand that not all truth exists in God’s Word. For example, where in the Bible does it say that the boiling temperature for water is 212˚ Fahrenheit? The fact that the earth has a gravitational pull does not exist in 2 Newton 3:15. Christians, while being faithful to the Scriptures, often get carried away and lose sight of the fact that wisdom can be sought outside the realm of the God-breathed words found in our Holy Bible. Should the Scriptures be the lens through which we view life and discern what is wise? Most certainly—however, we must be cautious in being dogmatic in our view of wisdom and knowledge.
Ben Sherwood in his book Survivors Club makes a case for seeking wisdom in literature that is not directly inspired by Yahweh. Sherwood writes about many survival practices that people have used to survive life crises. Many of the principles that serve as a common thread among survivors can be applied to following Christ. While it isn’t universally true throughout the book, I would say that the term “survivor” used in Sherwood’s work can be related to our idea of a “Christian.” Many, if not all, of the attributes Sherwood lists for survivors can also be good for Christians to have, however they are not all-inclusive.
Before I jump into finding parallels of Sherwood’s survivor traits and the attributes of a Christ-follower, I must make clear the reason this book can be used as a source of wisdom regarding our walks with Christ. Sherwood says on page 16, “survivor is defined as ‘anyone who faces and overcomes adversity, hardship, illness, or physical or emotional trauma.’” But wait a second, God wants what is best for us, so we won’t ever have to face or overcome adversity. Wrong. Jesus says in John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (ESV). Jesus makes it pretty clear that this whole Christian thing, or Way as it was called then, wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. Followers of Christ must be survivors in order to further the kingdom of God. Survivors, Sherwood goes on to say on page 16, make the most of misfortune. The same must go for Christians, however we make the most of misfortune for the glory of God, not simply to survive another day, which is where I believe the line is drawn between a survivor and a Christ-follower. Christians, like survivors, must understand “that normal is just a fleeting state of mind” (Survivors 18). We must, like survivors, make the most of life and figure out what is best for ourselves, our families, and ultimately our God, not for our comfort, but for the advancement of God’s kingdom (19).
So what are some of the parallels that can be taken from Sherwood’s book and applied to surviving our walks with Christ? The first I would like to examine is the “Incredulity Response” (36). The term “Incredulity Response” was coined by one of the world’s leading experts in survival psychology named Dr. John Leach. He says that one of the main reasons people die in dire situations is because, “They morph into marble instead of taking action” (35), “People simply don’t believe what they’re seeing…They act like everything is okay and underestimate the seriousness of danger” (36). The example used to illustrate the Incredulity Response is the 1987 fire at the King’s Cross Underground station in London. Leach says that many more people died than necessary because they refused to act, and may have been thinking, “There really can’t be a fire in London’s busiest tube station. This really isn’t happening” (36).
I see this survivor attribute, or anti-survivor attribute really, manifesting itself in Christianity regarding sin. I think Christians often ignore sin issues and just go about their business as if there is nothing wrong with what they’re doing. There is no crisis—the sin in which they are taking part is not destroying their lives. I still have my wife, I still have my 401K, my kids are well-behaved and are going to graduate in the top of their classes—really, what’s wrong with the fact that I lie on my tax returns? I see the Incredulity Response running rampant in Christianity, specifically in circles or families in which being a Christian is simply a long-running family tradition. Christians who practice this Incredulity Response are in a black hole that will continue to suck their lives farther and farther away from Jesus Christ, or are, in fact, not followers of Christ at all. If the Gospel of Christ is based upon the fact that Christ came and died to redeem us from our sin, how are we to have faith in such a Gospel when we see no sin issue? Easy, we aren’t to have faith in such a situation. You can’t fix what isn’t broken, and you can’t redeem one who thinks he is already blameless. As, “‘Denial and inactivity prepare people well for the roles of victim and corpse’” (37), so does the concealment and containment of secret sin prepare “Christians” well for the roles of condemned and confused.
The second parallel I would like to draw between being a survivor and being a follower of Christ is that both parties are transformed after enduring hardship. Dr. Lawrence Calhoun is a survival psychology expert from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He argues, “that posttraumatic growth is significantly more prevalent than posttraumatic stress” (278). Calhoun has conducted studies that show that 30 to 90 percent of people facing serious crises experience at least some positive change (278). I have seen this ring true in the lives of my friends who faithfully follow Christ.
As difficult as it may be to suffer sometimes, whether it is persecution for claiming the name of Christ or simply losing a loved one, those are often the times Christians draw nearer to their Savior. In addition to seeing my friends draw closer to God during difficult times, I have seen most, if not all, of them grow in their faith and trust in the Lord as a result of their scenario. I can easily agree with Calhoun’s stat that says that 30 to 90 percent of people who endure crises see some positive change, and I would even lean more toward the 90% than the 30%. In fact, just this weekend one of my good friends from my youth group back home lost her 40-some year old mom to breast cancer. However, in what will over the next few months or so may be a time of lamenting a mourning, she said on her Facebook status today, “You give and take away, my heart will choose to say Lord Blessed be Your name!” A girl who has admittedly had trouble giving things up to God is, through the tragic and saddening death of her mother, growing closer to her ever-loving Father. This is just one, very recent, way that I have seen my friends grow closer to God through traumatic times.
I could continue drawing parallels between the survivor principles outlined in this book and the skills, for lack of a better term, needed to follow Christ. However, for the sake of brevity, I must conclude with what is definitely the most powerful part of Sherwood’s work.
In his many interviews, one survivor principle stuck out as the most important attribute in many different situations: faith in God. It is so encouraging to me that a writer, who does not claim to be a follower of Christ, found many survivors and survivor psychology experts who say that faith in God is one of the, if not the most, important tools of survival. Ray Smith, co-author of the book How to Survive on Land and Sea and Naval survival expert, said to Sherwood when he asked what the secret to survival is, “Faith in God” (135). Sherwood says, “He [Smith] feels so strongly about faith that he thinks it properly belongs as the first chapter of any book on survival” (136). Smith, along with multiple survivors that Sherwood interviewed, made it clear that their faith in God is what saved them. The line that encouraged me and fascinated me the most from the entire book reads, “Over the years, a number of studies have shown that intercessory prayer can actually lead to positive results” (148). Praise God for his Word and the wisdom we can gain from sources outside of the words He breathed.
I love you guys. Be well.