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“And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.”—2 Corinthians 9:81
If we truly want to experience God’s overflowing abundance, we must make room for it by allowing our soul to be stretched. The groans we utter as it uncomfortably expands may temporarily drown out the singing in heaven, but in the end it will create an earthly space with far better salvation acoustics.
Jesus’ life could hardly be considered abundant by modern cultural standards, but through suffering His soul was stretched to globally salvific proportions. His pain made room for our pain and His abundant life became our abundant life. Maybe we would let the belt out on our souls a bit more if we truly believed that soul stretching could be soul saving.
We worship a God who not only suffered and died on our behalf but rose from the dead covered with scars from His earthly ordeal. A God who was tattooed by evil, yet wore it like a victory medal. Interestingly, when Thomas wanted proof that Jesus had risen from the dead, he didn’t want a demonstration of Jesus’ newfound resurrection powers but rather wanted to see the scars of shared suffering. …
God is a redeemer. He doesn’t make bad things go away but transforms them into something good. As a neonatologist, I often have to bring bad news to the parents of my patients. It can be quite depressing, because I see no reason why bad things should happen to good people, but then I am reminded that we all suffer. The issue is not the inevitable bad but the unexpected good.
I know that my Redeemer lives, so in each and every difficult situation I expect to see evidence that He is alive and well. Instead of worrying about God’s apparent absence, I now get excited about what new and interesting ways He will make His presence felt. …
Jesus is the Hen that wishes to gather the chicks, the Shepherd that is concerned about the harassed and helpless sheep, the Bottle that collects all our tears of pain without spilling a drop. Jesus isn’t an antiviral but rather the Great Physician. … He has a gentle and humble bedside manner, and if we accept His therapeutic regimen we will find rest for our souls.
He will begin by sitting us down and wiping every tear from our eyes so that we can clearly see the clinical course that lies ahead and anticipate the promised eternal remission to come where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.2—Erik Strandness3
Moving outside our safety zone
We all have our safety zone, that range of circumstances that we’re comfortable with or the people that we’ve learned to interact with easily and without much conscious effort. The borders of that zone are often determined by our fears, and what we think will be acceptable to others in our behavior, and what exceeds comfortable levels of effort on our part.
The safety zone is nice and cozy. The problem is that if we allow it to govern our decisions, it can end up leaving little room for growth or development. It can stifle our experiencing all that life has to offer, and unless we continue to stretch ourselves, we can risk becoming complacent in heart, mind, and spirit.
The danger of our staying within our personal safety zone if the Lord is trying to broaden our horizons is that we can gradually be lulled into a mediocre existence where we don’t explore our full potential. We can lose the ability to see how much more we can attain, to the point that we no longer take those exciting leaps of faith.
It’s uncomfortable to break through those boundaries and there are risks, because we don’t know what we’ll encounter. But the satisfaction, fulfillment, and excitement of facing new people, new ideas, and new opportunities is all part of what makes us deeper, purpose-driven individuals. We can never know our full potential unless we are willing to stretch beyond what we think are our limits.
The nature of the Lord is such that He sometimes disrupts our comfort zones and brings new challenges into our lives that force us to take a hard look at the limitations we’ve placed on ourselves, so that we can step outside them. As we do, we often find out that it’s not quite as unsettling as we had imagined, and many times we find a new world of opportunities and potential that we hadn’t previously thought was possible.—Maria Fontaine
Running the race
When you’re being stretched spiritually, your faith in God grows. When you’re being stretched mentally, your old ideas are challenged and replaced with new ones. When you’re being stretched relationally, selfishness dies and love grows. So, are you being stretched right now?
God allows us to have stretching experiences that prepare us for the race he has called us to run in life—and every so often your soul will “hit the wall.” No amount of strength and no amount of pressing will move the problem. This is soul stretch! Often, these moments aren’t the real test; they are just warm-ups that prepare us for future challenges. They are points of reference designed to keep us from panicking when we’re in the midst of the real race.
Remember that God never allows a person to run for him, or with him, who hasn’t been stretched in their thinking, their faith, and their ability to live and love. So when you face a problem that just won’t move, remember to take a deep breath and remind yourself that God is stretching you. It’s the stretching of the soul that enables us to face situations we think will kill us, but don’t; to endure times when we think we won’t make it, but do.
Sooner or later we will all face difficult times and relationships, but they are just the deep knee bends of life. So when it feels like you’re being stretched to breaking point, don’t quit. See it for what it is—preparation for running and winning your God-assigned race in life.—Rhema
Faith and comfort zones
Our faith will never thrive when everything’s comfortable—when all our needs are supplied ahead of time, when we can handle the work on our own, when we know what’s ahead—that’s when we’re fine carrying all the weight. It’s when things are difficult and when we can’t carry the load that our faith is strengthened, because we have to hand the load over to Jesus and trust.
Proverbs 3:5 says to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding,” or your own strength.4 That means put your weight down. And as we do that—as we depend more on Jesus and put our trust in His promises—our faith will become stronger.
We have to be willing to have our faith stretched. Faith doesn’t have the chance to grow when everything is flowing along as usual. We need to be willing to stretch as well and choose to try new things that we’re not sure of.
In the Bible, we see that while sometimes people were put in difficult situations where their faith had to be stretched, other times God waited for them to stretch before He did the things that they couldn’t do themselves.
Jesus said that faith the size of a mustard seed could do big things. And sometimes that’s all we can muster, and at those times, He’ll use what we’ve got. I think, though, that He doesn’t expect our faith to stay that tiny. I think He expects our faith to grow as we see Him come through for us time and time again. I think He wants us to feed our faith so that it grows and blossoms and starts bearing fruit.
God has plans and a purpose for each of us, and He brings steps along the way to prepare us for those plans. However, it takes faith to step out and reach toward those plans, to take action and start building on what God wants for us. If we hold back until everything’s “safe,” we may miss out.
No matter where you are on your life journey or what unexpected twists and turns it has taken, you can determine to look at each “overwhelming” situation as a great chance for a faith workout!—Marie Story
Published on Anchor April 2021. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
Music by Michael Dooley.
2 Revelation 21:4.