Do you have tension in your life? Do you recognize the real tension between what you need to be truly well and what the circumstances of your life require?
A book I’m reading titled Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership puts it this way:
“There is the tension between being and doing, community and cause, truth-telling and putting the right spin on things. There is the tension between the time it takes to love people and the need for expediency. There is the tension between the need for measurable goals and the difficulty of measuring that which is ultimately immeasurable by anyone but God himself.”
Of course, most of us want to break that tension between two poles because it’s not fun to live in it. There really are only two ways to relieve it. Either we compromise or we hold steady.
If we can’t live in the tension of being and doing we opt for one or the other. We become crazy busy (to borrow from Kevin DeYoung) or we cloister ourselves away into unhealthy navel gazing. We opt for peace-at-any-price or unvarnished truth. We give ourselves a failing grade at all our impossible goals or we quit measuring everything altogether.
Compromise will get you out of the tension, but at what cost?
Holding steady, on the other hand, will grow you.
Moses held steady in the desert. Joshua held steady marching into the Promised Land. Jeremiah held steady as God’s people were exiled out of that land. This is what he had to say:
“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him.” (Lamentations 3:27-28)
When I was 18 I began to sense a call to ministry. At a weekend retreat with other college students I sought out a pastor and told him how I felt. His words to me were, “A call to ministry is a call to suffer!” He very quickly dispelled all my notions of what ministry entailed. In fact, he tried to scare me off reminding me that the chapter that says, “Thy mercies are new every morning,” is the same one that contained the admonition to bear the yoke.
It worked. He scared me off. I wasn’t ready to live in the tension between serving and suffering, between the cross and the crown.
How about you? Where have you been scared off from living in the tension between two areas in your life?
Now I’ve been ordained for three years. I live everyday in the tension described above. What changed?
On the one hand, I still don’t enjoy living in the tension. It’s not fun. It’s not comfortable. But I’ve found three things that brought me here keep me here holding steady. I think they can also help you hold steady.
Recognize God as the Greater Person to Find a Greater Example
God is the greater person. He calls you live between being and doing. He calls you to live in the tension of love and expediency. He created both love and time, so he should know how hard it can be. Jesus left one town where he was healing people to be able to preach in another. He never made it to every single town. My path toward ministry got clearer when I grew in my own recognition of God’s greatness. When you recognize God himself is willing to hold steady in the person of Christ, you have an example to imitate.
Let Go of the Greater Tension to Gain a Greater Strength
Imitating a great example is noble, but it is futile if there is not also a greater strength available to you. That strength also must exist outside of you. Jeremiah experienced this kind of strength when he penned these words: There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9)
The tension of holding in God’s word rather than speaking it was a greater tension for Jeremiah and it became a greater tension for me. Keeping quiet about my desire to pursue ministry caused more tension than holding steady in the face of figuring out how to pursue it. Once I got honest about my calling, I found greater strength to pursue it. I let go of the tension of holding it in to experience the strength of God’s word in figuring out how to move forward.
The word Jeremiah was called to speak was a strength outside of himself that kept him holding steady. That word strengthened him to live in the tension between saving his own life and speaking to his fellow countrymen and king who wanted to kill him.
Make the Greater Compromise In Order to Hold Steady in the Tension
You may feel the tension to compromise between peace and truth or love and expediency. But there is a greater compromise you must make. Compromise your pride rather than compromising your integrity and you will find strength to live in the tension to which God has called you.
Pride causes you to live in your own strength. It’s a lack of integrity because it is a downright lie that we have strength to go it alone in life. But when you make the greater compromise and admit your weakness, you will gain the strength available to you in Christ’s integrity. Repentance and faith is shorthand for compromising on your pride to gain Christ’s integrity which gives you strength.
When you have His strength you can hold steady in the tension of your life’s circumstances. That’s the real message of Paul in Philippians 4:12-13: In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
When we recognize Someone greater has called us to let go of our pride and admit our weakness, then we can hold steady in life’s circumstances through His strength at work in us.