How can God use stress in our lives to produce good. How can it conform us to the image of Christ. Randy Alcorn writes:
1. God uses stress to get our attention. God created our bodies. He designed them to send us messages. If I stick my hand in fire, my body will send me a message, quick and clear. If I ignore it, I’ll pay the price.
C.S. Lewis said “pain is God’s megaphone.” Some of us are hard of hearing. We ignore physical, mental, and spiritual warning signs. We’re like the stubborn mule the farmer had to hit over the head with a two-by-four to get his attention. God wants us to tune our ears to the messages He sends us through our minds and bodies.
2. God uses stress to help us redefine or rediscover our priorities. By abandoning our God-given priorities we set ourselves up to learn a hard lesson. In essence we do what the Israelites did: lived in paneled houses while God’s house became a ruin (). In response, God sent lack of fulfillment, disillusionment, and failure as His messengers. He withheld His blessing till His people rediscovered their priorities:
God’s people are twice admonished “Give careful thought to your ways.” Stress should take us back to the basics. It is an opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities and bring them in line with God’s.
3. God uses stress to draw us to Himself. Time and again it was said of the people of Israel, “But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them” (). It was in Jonah’s darkest hour, in his most stressful circumstances that he said this: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me” ( ). The Psalms are full of references of turning to God, seeking Him and finding Him in times of intense stress.
When our lives are comfortable and stress-free, too often we withdraw from the Lord into our own worlds of spiritual independence and isolation. Smug and self-satisfied, we forget what life is really all about. But as the thirsty seek for water, those under stress often seek God. Many non-believers have come to Christ and many believers have returned to Him in times of stress.
4. God uses stress to discipline us. Quoting Solomon’s words to his son, the writer of Hebrews offers what he calls a word of encouragement:
(The word son, of course, is generic for “child,” and applies equally to daughters.)
To some of us, this doesn’t sound so encouraging. But we fail to realize how essential discipline is. Scripture says that to withhold discipline from a child is, in essence, child abuse: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” ().
Discipline is corrective. It is remedial, not revengeful. God sends stresses not to get back at us for doing wrong, but to deepen our dependence on Him in order to do right. Though the stressful experience may seem excruciating at the time, it is ultimately all for good:
5. God uses stress to strengthen our faith.tells us: “These [trials] have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
There is only one way a muscle grows—through stress. A muscle that is rarely exercised atrophies; it shrinks into uselessness. A muscle seldom stretched beyond its usual limits can only maintain itself. It cannot grow. To grow, a muscle must be taxed. Unusual demands must be placed upon it.
Stress is a demand placed upon our faith. Without it our faith will not, cannot, grow.
Ever seen grass grow through asphalt? It’s amazing if you think about it. How does grass, pressed flat and robbed of light, persevere? Yet we’ve seen it. Somehow God made those tiny blades of grass to rise to the greatest challenge. Nanci and I have seen many people rise against odds just as great.
In the crucible of stress, as we draw on our resources in Christ, He gives us faith and strength to crack through and rise above the asphalt coat. That hard demanding surface buries some forever, but is to others the defining point of breaking through and thriving by the grace of God.