Tension vs. Stress: the Good, the bad and the Biblical

In part 1, we learned that God established the principle of tension in our world, but forbade stress. When we give in to stress, we are giving in to self-justification, which ultimately is sin. So, stress is bad, but tension is GOOD. Unfortunately we’ve conflated the concepts of tension and stress, and need to separate the two, learning to live in the tension and tune it, but repent when we give in to stress.

Tension is good

Tension is everywhere. It keeps the roof above our head, the bridge underneath our car, our guitars and pianos playing on key, our ecosystems balanced, and our bodies healthy. We literally cannot live without it!

Living in tension looks like working hard at connecting “who we have been and will always be” with “who we must become,” because that’s what Christ has called us to. To be completely relevant to our context yet completely faithful to our inheritance—that is our tension.

So how do you survive the tuning process without succumbing to stress?

Numbers_1Refocus on your relationship with Jesus. Your value comes from Jesus, not your mission or other people’s opinion of you. To characterize yourself by your work should never be your ultimate identity. If it is, you are bordering on idolatry. You can be passionate about your calling, but you still need to be YOU, following Christ in your life’s mission. These things can be deeply intertwined, but are not the same thing.

Numbers_2Recognize and embrace your smallness. God doesn’t need me to establish His Kingdom on the planet. Each of us is but a tiny piece of the Global Church through the millennia. This is comforting because I can’t really screw it up.

Numbers_3Approach your work as a serious steward, not a serious owner. We don’t own anything. We are stewards: of the Gospel, of our life, our family, earthly goods etc. But we are stewards, not owners. We are called to be faithful and fruitful with what we have been given until the owner comes back—Jesus is in charge and can step in any time He wants. That’s stress relieving right there!

Numbers_4Be real and function in reality. All you have is all you have; all you can do is all you can do; all you are is all you are. It’s enough because you are a steward, not an owner.

Numbers_5Enjoy the Sabbath rest of the Gospel. Jesus is in charge and He’s already won. The future hasn’t been revealed in detail, but it’s already set in stone. So enjoy the journey, despite the brokenness, failures, and losses. God is shaping us.

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I Peter 1:6-9 says that yes, the journey will leave you with cuts and bruises. BUT we know that there’s wonderful joy ahead despite the trials…the tension…faith more precious than gold awaits us. Navigating well and tuning the tension will be rewarded by the salvation of souls. And that’s all that really matters.

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