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Positive Tension

Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Positive tension. At first glance, you might be thinking what could possibly be good about tension. After all, as a society we’ve designed a number of escape routes from tension. We medicate our tension with alcohol or prescription drugs. We binge a series on Netflix to take our minds off it. We even daydream about a new career or new marriage, free from the current tension of life. But what I hope to show you is that there is another side to tension - a positive side. And when we invite positive tension into our lives, it can take us places we never thought possible.

To help illustrate the difference between positive and negative tension, I’m going to assign each an adjective. Positive tension is “stretching,” and negative tension is “straining.” Can you already begin to see the difference? In the gym, we need tension. If we don’t put our bodies under some type of tension, we will see no results. Coaches try to hold athletes in positive tension during their workouts. We want to stretch the muscles, but not strain them. Athletes under positive tension see the bigger picture. They recognize the purpose in the tension and that it will lead to something greater in life. Positive tension is not an “in the moment” kind of thing. It’s a conscious connection between the current action and the desired outcome.

Negative tension is the opposite. I see this in athletes who push themselves beyond what they need to. Not that I’m some kind of mind reader, but there are signs that negative tension is driving the decision-making process. Oftentimes, that’s using more weight than they should (because they want to hit the “Rx” button), other times it’s just not listening to their body. I’m all for going hard, but when you lose perspective on why you decided to push it, then you’re at risk for negative tension, or straining. If you’ve ever strained a muscle, you know what I’m talking about. Strained muscles require recovery time and rehab. There’s a real difference between positive and negative tension - both in physical and spiritual fitness.

Stretching yourself spiritually is the key to growth. In the same way, you must have a conscious connection between what you’re doing and what your desired outcome is. As you read Hebrews, you’re going to encounter people who were in positive tension. And what you’ll see is that the one thing they held in common was their faith in God. Each of them believed that God was going to do what He promised. They couldn’t see it. It hadn’t happened yet. So, they held on in faith, creating positive tension in their spiritual lives. They weren’t straining or trying to figure out how to do it on their own. Instead, they were trusting that God would make a way, even when it seemed impossible. Faith is the catalyst to growing spiritually through positive tension. If you want to deal with the stress of life better, learn to exercise your faith in God.

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