Resilience Lessons from Mrs. Oswald Chambers Part I

I’ve been learning about resilience recently and Biddy Chambers has provided lessons.

Many will know my book Mrs. Oswald Chambers launched on October 17.

Many don’t know my family and I were evacuated from our home for thirteen days during that period.

The fires in Northern California during October, 2017 were aimed at our house–from four different directions.

resilience lessons, Biddy Chambers, Mrs. Oswald Chambers, widowhood, London Blitz, fire, World War I, poverty, determination to do God's willThe good news is our family’s homes all came through intact.

That was not true of many of our friends. 27 families from our church lost their homes.

For my launch party at church on Sunday, October 22, I knew there was only one important takeaway from Biddy Chambers’ life story.


The definition for resilience is simple: “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.”

Christians will understand that resilience is most often rooted in faith.

And the definition of faith from Hebrews 11: “ Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Biddy Chambers encountered reasons to exercise her faith in God‘s leading by applying it to events in her life.


Biddy had a happy childhood in Woolwich, England until she reached her young teenage years. Bronchitis compromised her health and ultimately her education.

Forced to drop out of school at fourteen because she missed so much school, Biddy also endured the death of her father six months later.

Her mother had sought financial security her whole life. Biddy and her siblings knew they needed to be able to provide for themselves.

She couldn’t go to school, but she chose the next thing: a correspondence course in Pitman shorthand. Applying herself to the work, Gertrude Annie Hobbs eventually “took down” dictation at 250 words per minute (or twice as fast as a normal person speaks).

Rather than give into the terror of not being able to graduate from school, Biddy chose to focus on what she could do.

Or, as her daughter Kathleen pointed out,

“If my mother hadn’t had bronchitis, she probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity of learning shorthand to that extent. My father always used to talk about God’s order in the haphazard, and that was haphazard in a way. If she hadn’t had the shorthand speed like that, there wouldn’t have been any books at all. None whatever.”

I believe Biddy’s determination to not allow a physical setback to compromise her life impressed Oswald Chambers.

It enabled him to view the pretty young woman he got to know on a voyage, with eternal eyes.

World War I voyage

War is a great equalizer and often the source of fear and self-doubt.

resilience lessons, Biddy Chambers, Mrs. Oswald Chambers, widowhood, London Blitz, fire, World War I, poverty, determination to do God's will

A sister ship to the SS Herefordshire Biddy took to Egypt (from the collection of Björn Larsson)

For Biddy, World War I presented an extraordinary opportunity: she could join her husband in the theater of operations where he served.

I’ve written before about how I responded to a similar opportunity here.

But, Biddy recognized her role in her husband’s ministry required her presence.

Given an opportunity to sail through U-boat infested winter waters during a world war to a land of pestilence and illness before antibiotics with a two-year-old daughter to live in an adobe hut in the desert–what would you do?

Biddy chose to go.

She made the preparations and in the face of much danger, boarded a ship with her toddler and a friend.

Living in the Desert

Basically, Biddy and Oswald camped in the desert.

They lived in a two-room adobe bungalow, made of the same bricks the Israelites built for Pharaoh several thousand years before.

The floor was made of sand. They cooked and lived outdoors, except when ministering in the YMCA canvas tent.

(Things improved slightly when a sandstorm tore apart the tent and the “hut” was rebuilt of native reeds).

Biddy never knew how many dinner guests would show up, but her resilience (and the ability of tea and soup to be stretched), enabled her to greet them all with pleasure.

Her resilience blessed the ANZAC soldiers who lived in the nearby Zeitoun camp.


The adobe bungalow

Biddy’s ability to encourage the other YMCA workers impressed the head of the YMCA.

It stood her in good stead when her husband announced he planned to “go up the line,” with the soldiers bent on taking Jerusalem.

Biddy’s determination to do whatever God or her husband asked her to do for ministry purposes, made all the difference to Christians living today.

Her resilience, the lessons I learned to “Pull a Biddy,” served me and my family well, when we fled from fire.

Resilience Lessons from Mrs. Oswald Chambers (Part II–in mourning) can be read here.


Lessons in resilience from Mrs. Oswald Chambers Click to Tweet

How Biddy Chambers’ childhood demonstrated her resiliency. Click to Tweet

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Every month in 2017, I told stories about God’s leading and my blessed–and astonished–reactions while writing Mrs. Oswald Chambers

The dozen serendipities appear in my free Ebook Writing about Biddy and Oswald Chambers.

Sign up for my newsletter here and you can download your copy.

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  1. ‘God’s order in the haphazard.’ I like that, and it’s helpful to remember.. :–)

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