Living in the Tension

Who like’s tension? Not me.

I would venture to say that when anyone hears the word “tension” we all cringe a little inside.

I was sitting in my Group Dynamics class yesterday where we are learning as future clinicians how to run a group therapy session. The professor opened up the class by handing out a colored wheel, known in the field of Psychology as a “feeling wheel”. The concept behind it is that when you are “checking-in” with your group, this exercise allows each person to take a moment and honestly assess how they’ve been feeling that day.

When I looked at that wheel, I saw the word “joy” on one side, and directly across from it I saw “sad”. I began looking at the descriptive words on both the joy side of the wheel and the sad side, and I realized that I resonated with both sides of the wheel pretty evenly.

I have just moved to the big city of Chicago, and I was instantly thrust into a new school, a new job, and a new living situation. As you venture into a new life there are always unforeseen challenges that create a tension between the anticipation of good, and the fear and anxiety of the unknown.

I realized in that moment that I am, like many out there, living in the tension between sadness and joy as I navigate a new life. Like a seesaw I find myself tipping from one side to the other at any given moment.

As human beings we hate tension. We want to resolve it, avoid it, deny it…really, find any way to come out from underneath its awkwardness.

BUT, God invites us into the tension ALL.THE.TIME. He is not so concerned with our comfort as much as He is our growth. And, it’s in the tension that we are challenged to grow as we seek God, find comfort, peace, and clarity in Him.

We must remember that God is a good Father, and He will always meet the seeking heart, but not before we have experienced the tension. For example, let’s consider these verses, and tell me there isn’t tension found in them.

“Blessed are the poor in spiritfor theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meekfor they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousnessfor they will be filled.” Matthew 5:3-6 NLT

These verses perfectly display the tension between our need, our experience, and God’s provision. Is it comfortable to be poor, or mourning, or meek, or hungry or thirsty? I think not. These infamous verses are an invitation to not just live, or exist in the tension, but actually thrive in it. Why? Because it is a pre-requisite to receiving God’s provision and answer.

I walked away from my class last night embracing a little more the reality of living in the tension of joy and sadness. I am learning that in the “sad” moments I can draw near to God, and He will be my joy. Growth requires my trust in the heart of God, because oftentimes the tension I feel between my experience and what I know can be very contradicting.

As we seek God in the tension, let’s hold fast to the truth that God is for us, and He will bring us to the other side of whatever our present experience is. If it’s sadness, He will bring us into a fuller sense of joy. If it’s anxiety, He will bring us into His peace. If it’s heartbreak, He will bring us into His healing.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

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