Torch, Fall 1984

ii that he had used his former status to help others ; now he himself was helpless . Except for Jesus Christ, perhaps no other person named in the Bible suffered more stress than Job . Job's response , though , is remarkable. Although he did not understand God 's purpose for the afflictions , Job was not bitter or angry with God. Instead, he blessed God (1 :21 ) . At the .same time , Job ' s finiteness was evident as he expressed some of his feelings . Because he was honest with himself and with God , he did not erect a pious facade. He was hurting and he communicated this hurt to God (7 :15 , 16; 13 :24; 16:7-17; 19:10). Another aspect of his response, perseverance , appeared when Job questioned God and waited on Him patiently without receiving a reason for the afflictions that were engulfing him (13: 15) . Further, he maintained steadily his confidence in the wisdom and sovereignty of God (9:4 ,8 , 10; 42 :2) . Eventually , God brought new blessings and prosperity to Job (42:10-16) . Even though this may not be the end product of our personal stresses , Job ' s pattern of response while undergoing stress is worthy of being emulated . PAUL After Paul became a Christian , his life was filled with a number of very difficult , stressful experiences . Examples are reported in II Corinthians 4 :8 ,9; II Corinthians 11 :24-28 ; and II Corinthians 12:7 . Just as Moses ' external circumstances could not be changed, Paul had no way to escape from the sources of his stress . Thus, his response had to be internal. He established a mindset that enabled him to negotiate these events without being overwhelmed. Paul's knowledge of the potentially positive results of stress motivated him to persevere. A key passage revealing Paul ' s th~nking about pressures is Romans 5: 1-5, where he makes it clear that we , too , can know and exercise this mindset. In verses one and two , the Apostle indicates the experiential results of the believer' s justification - God ' s declaring him righteous on the basis of faith (3:21-4 :25) . Believers already have positional peace with God and know that a glorious future in God ' s presence awaits them. But what about the actual conditions of life that are often adverse and difficult? Paul ' s word for "tribulations" in verse three can be translated as afflictions, distresses, or pressures . In these circumstances Paul gloried or rejoiced , but not with a stoic grin-and-bear-it attitude . Also , the passage does not suggest that Christians somehow ought to be glad when tragedy, tribulations, and disappointment occur and their hearts are breaking. Nor does Paul's teaching indicate that a Christian is to pretend in public that he is happy when inside he is not Christianity is never to be phony. Rather, the Apostle was teaching here a genuine sense of rejoicing. In the midst of stress , suffering, and troubles , believers may not be able to rejoice at the moment , but they can find joy if they look to God (Hebrews 12: 11 ). You see , the Apostle ' s answer is that he rejoiced because he knew something. He knew that stressful suffering is productive and is of value. The suffering of tribulations , from a spiritual frame of reference , produces three things. First , it produces patience (endurance). Note verse three . The Greek word for patience here literally means to abide ~nder , to stay under pressure. Being patient under stress teaches us about ourselves . We discover we are not as strong as we think and , thus , we become aware of our dependence on God . We also learn something about the Lord , woo works and shows Himself to be faithful and supportive. In staying under the pressure , we become steadier. This quality of steadiness could never be developed unless we experienced a variety of stresses. Secondly , the steadiness produced by suffering issues forth into experience (character). In verse four the Greek term for experience suggests the idea of someone being put to the test , being approved , and being shown to be reliable . Through trials , God is in the process of making people of character. In the third place , a tested character has developed in hope (confidence) that God will see us through the deep waters of life. Read verse four. This hope does not disappoint us , as we see in verse five. The Holy Spirit pours into our lives the love of God in the midst of our struggles. Knowing and utilizing Paul's mindset will give us the capacity to genuinely rejoice in tribulations and to mature in the Christian life. That is why our perceptual stance while we undergo stress is critical. The Apostle Paul emphasized that what we know about the positive results of stress will enable us to cope with the stress we have now and will undergo in the future. We have surveyed some responses which biblical individuals have used. Thus , in our stress-filled lives , I suggest that it is imperative to implement the following: L. On occasion , a change in our behavior will alleviate undue stress . Do not assume too much responsibility. 2. We should pursue the possibility of genuinely blessing God and rejoicing even in view of stress. 3. We can confide to God our feelings when we hurt . 4 . We can be patient in trials as we focus on the loving wisdom and sovereignty of God . 5 . We can develop a mindset concerning stress which enables us to persevere as we realize that stress can be productive spiritually. Dr. Stanley N. Ballard is chairman of the Psychology Department at Cedar– ville College. A licensed psychologist , he received his Ph.D. from North Texas State University. 5