The Painful Value of Spiritual Stretching
LAC Missionary Terisa Vasquez, alongside her husband, Fredy, and 3 children, have been in missions for 18 years. They are currently serving in Honduras working in the area of Church Planting and Unreached/Least reached people groups.
Move over, Elastigirl!
I've been stretched to the point I'd give our beloved superhero a run for her money. I don’t like it when things don’t go the way I anticipated they would. Honestly, I don’t think anybody likes it when things don’t go their way. After all, expectation is everything, right? Living on the mission field has stretched me in ways I never imagined. Maybe Elastigirl can give you a visual picture of how I generally feel. Unfortunately, it's often painful and I feel like anything but a superhero!
I have been stretched in ways beyond what I ever considered possible; beyond the bounds of what I thought I could endure. And the most amazing thing is, I've actually lived to tell about it (or write about it anyway.) You see the thing is everybody likes to say, "God will never give you more than you can handle." Personally, I don't find that anywhere in my Bible, and believe me, I've looked.
If we're honest, most of us find ourselves in situations and circumstances that often stretch us beyond what we originally thought possible to endure. Living on the mission field, I find myself stretched almost daily; sometimes to the point I think I won't survive! (A little bit of the drama queen, from my theatre days, still lives on.)
Thankfully, we aren't alone. Some of the greatest heroes of the faith felt the very same way. What about Paul? Although he was known for his determination and stick~to~ it~iveness, even he despaired to the very point he thought he just wouldn't survive. (Granted, his circumstances were probably a little dire in comparison, but mine often feel that way to me.)
"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers." 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 (emphasis mine)
Under great pressure, beyond their ability to endure, despairing even of life... Sounds like some stretching was going on there to me!
Wikipedia says, "Stretching is a form of physical exercise in which a specific muscle or tendon (or muscle group) is deliberately flexed or stretched in order to improve the muscle's felt elasticity and achieve comfortable muscle tone. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility and range of motion. Stretching is also used therapeutically to alleviate cramps."
I've noticed something. (Let's keep this between us.) There is something to be said about this stretching thing. Don't get me wrong, it's painful and I don't like it. No, seriously; I. Don't. Like. It. Ever. However, all this streeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetching has taken me to a whole new level of flexibility.
Is it possible that there is a form of spiritual stretching that God does in our lives? Instead of a specific muscle or tendon in mind, could it be that He deliberately flexes and stretches us through our life circumstances; in order to improve our spiritual elasticity and achieve strong spiritual muscle tone in our lives? (AKA: our character and the fruit of the spirit)
The result being: increased spiritual muscle control (ie., self control/and recognizing The One who is in control), flexibility, and range of motion to adapt and be more sensitive to the opportunities to touch the lives around us. Stretching is also therapeutic and can alleviate cramps. In other words, it can help us to learn to trust and rest in His Peace no matter what we are facing; making it in a sense easier to face whatever life brings our way. So, although you'll probably never hear me say it out loud, I really am thankful that God loves me enough to allow me to be all stretched out of shape so that I can be a better version of me and hopefully a whole lot more like Him!
What are some ways you find yourself being stretched?