December 14, 2013 by Stacy McDonald

A Spiritual Stress Test

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“Afflictions do us good likewise, as they make us more acquainted with what is in our own hearts and thereby promote humiliation and self-abasement. There are abominations which, like nests of vipers, lie so quietly within, that we hardly suspect they are there till the rod of affliction rouses them; then they hiss and show their venom. This discovery is indeed very distressing; yet till, it is made, we are prone to think ourselves much less vile than we really are, and cannot so heartily abhor ourselves and repent in dust and ashes.” – John Newton

I love this quote, but I would replace the word “self-abasement” with repentance. Trials and afflictions, and the way we respond to them, help us to see sin in ourselves that may have otherwise gone unnoticed or been ignored.

It stirs us up in much the same way a cardiovascular “stress test” does when a doctor is looking for physical trouble in our heart. Affliction is like a spiritual stress test, only it’s more than just a test…because if we press into the pain, God purges our sin and changes us – it literally makes us stronger in the end.

What I’ve found personally is that if I press into the pain and not fight it (think child birth) it makes me stronger, and I see fruit in my life. But when I run from the pain, I’m more apt to become disillusioned and bitter. Like my midwife used to say, “Don’t waste the pain.”

 



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11 Responses to “A Spiritual Stress Test”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Have you been going through a trial lately, Stacy?

  2. Lisa H. says:

    So true!
    This quote made me think of a recent and on-going incident. My elderly unsaved father recently fell and fractured vertebrae in his neck. All his years of philosophy, “positive thinking”, and nihilistic/humanistic beliefs have left him with nothing on which to lay hold. My husband told me,” His world-view is now bearing fruit!”
    As I viewed my reaction to the whole situation, and examined my heart, I saw the anchor of Christ, and the beauty He planted there. Though there is grief over my parents and their lost condition, I can say with another hymn-writer, “It is well with my soul.”
    God has been stirring up the viper’s nest within, and amazingly, the vipers are at rest…. indeed, they are lethargic with the administration of the Spirit and His comforting, sanctifying grace! Praise God for these trials! They not only show us our sin, but show us His unspeakable grace and mercy toward those whom He loves, through His amazing transforming power.

  3. Janet W. says:

    This Autumn in our women’s bible study group, we have been studying the book of Job and all his trials. I have been asked to give a 30 minute talk about spiritual pruning in the next two weeks.

    Would you consider spiritual stress part of the spiritual pruning process?

    I’ve gone through many spiritually stressful times in my long life, and each time I experience some amount of peace because I know that it had to be God ordained and that He’s with me. My character will be the recipient of change for His glory.
    I may not enjoy the process, but have learned to give Him praise in it because I know God will guide and only give what is necessary.
    I was encouraged by your insight.

    Blessing, Mrs. J.

  4. Ginger says:

    That is such an excellent quote! I love it! How very true. We’ve been going thru 1 Peter as a church family, so this is right on target with what we’re studying.
    Trials for believers are our opportunity to become more like Christ. I may not want the pain, but I really do want sanctification. God be glorified.

  5. Georgia says:

    Today is my birthday and I am going to thank God for this beautiful day. No self abasement just a great time.

  6. Jennifer says:

    I know my non-Calvinist views are not popular here, but I hope you don’t believe the criss-cross patterns of red on my arms were God’s doing, or the mental torment of not seeming able to control myself, a self which seems to head in the direction of what Satan tells me I am. Should I give thanks to God for this? Is this a trial, to see if I believe the hell around and seemingly inside me? Is it punishment for being an egalitarian or not a Calvinist? Or am I one of the vessels that Calvinists say He did, indeed, make just for destruction? Supposedly so my miserable end will benefit a selected soul? What favorited soul will gain from my misery? What peace should an unloved child selected for sacrifice have, so the truly loved children of God may gain evermore?

  7. Annabelle says:

    Jennifer, God loves you!!!

    “But God commendeth (proved) his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

    “We love him, because he FIRST loved us.” I John 4:19

    He is reaching out to YOU, Jennifer! You just need to TRUST Him. Praying you will take hold of His outstretched hand, Annabelle

  8. Jennifer says:

    Thank you Annabelle :) I am indeed much healed.

  9. Theresa says:

    I love the pain during childbirth analogy :)

  10. Lisa Wright says:

    Hi, wow what a post. Makes you stop and think. i also want to say to Jennifer, GOD loves you. We go through trials in our lives to bring us to God or closer to God. I love knowing when times are tough God’s got my back. Lisa wright

  11. Dana says:

    That’s profound. I greatly dislike this about myself, but I seem to flunk out of tenacity and get straight A’s in bad behavior when I go through tough times. I used to do better, but getting older and still having some of the same problems, trials and tribs… and afflictions is very disheartening. It shows that I’m not such a good person when I face hard times. I really hate that and I cannot seem to get better.

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