Tension That Strengthens
“The great danger in a crisis is to rush to do things, and then just to be satisfied with our actions. Being busy subdues the mind, the heart, and the conscience, and gives us a feeling of relief. We feel, therefore, that just because we are doing something, we are dealing with the problem. The result is that we avoid the problem. Lessening the tension in a crisis is not of itself a good thing. Indeed, it can be altogether a bad thing. Morphis lessens the pain and tension but it does nothing to cure the illness. In short, the big danger today is to rush into dealing with the signs, the symptoms of our religious illness, rather than discovering and treating the true cause of all these signs.”
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Know the Times, Religion Today and Tomorrow, 26.
“Lessening the tension in a crisis is not of itself a good thing." Why? Because we can be tempted to rush in and deal with the symptoms without discovering the cause. Lloyd Jones is speaking in the context of true conversion as opposed to simply moral and philosophical reform.
But whilst this premise is true for salvation it holds true for sanctification. In trials and conflict and suffering of various kinds our first inclination is to get out of the situation. We naturally want relief. But actually what we need is to grow in faith. God's sovereign design in the trial is to strengthen fibres of faith. Suffering often reveals remaining indwelling sin. It also squeezes us that we might turn more to God for mercy and grace and be less self-sufficient. The divine intention is always that God would show his compassion in and through the trial itself. The trial then becomes a means of grace to the believer.
Let me take it further. How about when there is tension in conflict with your spouse? Rather than quickly just wash over it, say sorry and move on, letting the tension remain and prayerfully examining one’s own reactions and attitudes will perhaps reveal sin on your part for which you can repent. If both parties do this then reconciliation will be deeper and gospel soaked rather than superficial and moralistic. It will be heart change rather than simply behaviour change. The same is true of parenting. We must always seek to gospel our children. Behaviour modification will only produce Pharisees and harden children to the gospel.
The Doctor uses a medical example to illustrate his point, “Morphis lessens the pain and tension but it does nothing to cure the illness.” I will use a sporting analogy. You never get fitter if you are always training in the comfort zone. You must push your body to distress in order to grow. Muscles need to be stretched and under tension. It hurts and our inclination is to give up or slow down or lessen the load so that we get relief. But muscles only grow when put under stress. We need to stay in the tension. Because in the pain is the gain. And so it is with God and trials. It is in the tension and through the suffering that often sin is revealed and repentance is found and Christlikeness formed as God strengthens the fibres in our muscles of faith.