READ: 1 Samuel 28-31, Psalm 90, Matthew 1, Colossians 1
Duress and Deliverance
Living in the Arab World initiates a deconstruction phase. You become the proverbial orange stepped on by an elephant. Whatever is in you is squashed out. No dignity, no mask, no pretense. Duress exposes what is in us, duress exposes what we have carefully cloaked for years. We need Cairo (or Khartoum, Peshawar, Jakarta, Mogadishu, Istanbul, etc.) much more than they need us. Extreme contexts and cities put a slow, building pressure on us and over time what is in us is exposed for all to see. This is a supreme gift. Those that repent for what is in them are reconstructed and rise again to abundant life and ministry. Those whose shame cannot be overcome by their desire for wholeness limp along in life – never experiencing the fullness of God. God in His mercy does not regulate this deconstruction and reconstruction experience to those who work in pioneer contexts, but the frontier has the tendency to accelerate and magnify the process.
Duress alone is no guarantee of growth. Suffering makes some people better and some people bitter. Trial makes some shine and others sour. Trauma and trouble beautify some and “uglify” others. Emotion leads some to magnify God and others to draw attention to themselves. Fear and impatience made Saul break his own convictions about consulting mediums (1 Samuel 28). Grief caused David’s men to want to stone him (1 Samuel 30:6).
The emotion awoken through trial is indicative of the fragility of our hearts. It is also a reminder of who we are without Jesus. We do not judge those whom duress makes falter, for we all stumble in one way or another. We who have been broken and exposed as frauds have only love and understanding for those on a similar path. We also have great hope and joy as we know where it can lead them – true liberty, life, and happiness.
Before the Spirit of God came upon Saul he was an insecure and timid layperson. God’s Spirit transformed this weakling into a great leader who won battles and prophesied. When Saul disobeyed the Lord, the Lord’s favor was lifted and Saul was exposed (as we all have been or shall be) for who we are in ourselves – a pitiful sham. What makes David exemplary (and why he is called a man after God’s own heart) is how he responded to duress. When David’s home is plundered, his family abducted, and his followers breathing mutiny, David wisely reacts in two ways: He cries his eyes out and he strengthens himself in the Lord his God. David’s duress led him to Jesus.
Duress is a gift. There is great freedom in being exposed, in having nothing to hide. God’s deconstruction is one of His greatest mercies. On the other side of exposure is the freedom and life and liberty of being wholly in the light, of having our energies concentrated on discovering Jesus, not on covering shame.