Most of us would not regard it like that. We want to avoid it or make it disappear. But after Graham Cooke told us that “tension does not mean something is wrong, it means that something is happening,” I began to get it. I now recognize tension and respond appropriately—some of the time! Here are my discoveries:

Tension gets my attention
…like the gauge on the dashboard. It signals that something needs attending to. It would be strange to put a piece of tape over it, as if the signal annoyed us. It speaks an important word. Call it a friend.

I was driving up a hill that goes down into the high desert of Southern California, when the light came on telling me the car was overheating. I told Karen, “We’ll make it to the top, then coast down.” Wrong. Blew the head gaskets. When tension flashes, ask what it means.

God often causes tension.
He puts different siblings together. Consider Cain and Abel, Peter and Andrew, Martha and Mary. Differences cause friction. When we acknowledge the heat, the friction is used to wear down rough edges. Reacting to tension means not changing.

God creates tension by putting two very different people together in marriage—a man and a woman. Given our selfish nature, people are incompatible. Marriage binds two folks together for life, so they have time to work out incompatibilities. React to the tension—or learn from it. Imagine Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector on the same team. Yikes!

God always uses tension
…if we let Him. It appears that the relationship between Martha and Mary grew. The last time we see them they are working together, each exercising strengths in ministering to Jesus.

Paul’s prison time proved a shameful experience and a great challenge. Yet he came to see it as part of God’s strategy for getting the gospel out.

Two truths about God concerning tension:
He doesn’t waste anything. A friend of mine says, “Everything belongs.” God is the most economical person in the universe. Failure is not failure. Garbage makes great fertilizer.

He works all things together for good for those called according to His purpose. God works purposefully, even with incidents that did not happen for a good purpose.

Tension precedes breakthrough.
Tension was common in the life of Jesus and the early church. Most of Christ’s dinner gatherings turned into uncomfortable encounters. Truth trumps peace, and those committed to truth embrace tension as a gift, while circumstantial peace goes out the window.

God gave Peter a disturbing vision—three times! It would appear that Peter should understand the vision. He didn’t have a clue. Then he was invited by Gentiles to go to the home of Cornelius, another uncomfortable experience. He eventually got it—and so did throngs of Gentiles!

Maybe you want to respond in repentance and faith:

• I am sorry for reacting in the face of tension.
• I choose to move toward tension rather than away. I will embrace it as a friend and let it speak its message.
• I will trust the Lord to use it for good.

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