I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don’t feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I’m glad—not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss. Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets. (2 Corinthians 7:8-10)
Any great pain or sorrow that weighs us down and almost keeps us from moving is not meant to keep us down, it is meant to drive us to God. Elements of physical suffering, or some mental anguish might have us under its control right now. Some call this "trouble", while others use a more sophisticated term like "affliction" or "tribulation". It is simply junk we don't want to have to deal with, but somehow it always manages to find us. A plane billowing black smoke, pilot frantically attempting to send out a distress call indicating his location as he plummets to the earth - trouble, affliction, tribulation. The call is something of a plea for someone to notice he is "going down" in hopes he might be rescued at some point if he survives the horrific event. I think there are times we view distress almost in a similar way - as if we were "going down" - so we cry out, hoping someone, anyone will notice us and come to our rescue. Distress might even be "self-inflicted" - like when we make a really bad decision and then feel ourselves plummeting out of control, heading toward a crash. Any unseen force in their lives might cause us distress - like when you just feel pressure but cannot put your finger on where it is coming from, when it started, or how to make it end. The "other person" caused distress could be the entire source of the pressure or affliction we might be enduring. Either way, it appears distress is common among men and women alike, so isn't it about time we learn how to deal with it?
The opposite of distress is peace, assurance, and freedom. We have to learn what steals away our peace, brings us to the place of doubt, and captures us in its clutches so tightly. While trying to identify the cause of distress, we just have to look at these three things - peace disturbers, assurance robbers, and captors of our freedom. Peace is more than just the absence of disturbance! Some of us need a little disturbance once in a while to actually get us moving in the right direction once again. Think of the last time you lazily drifted into the lane next to you on the freeway and heard just a little toot of a horn from a passing motorist in the opposite lane. What did that horn toot provide? It disturbed your peace just enough to put you back on course in your lane again. Not all disturbance is a bad thing. Even the calmest, stillest running brook is moving! If it wasn't, it would be pond-like and scummy. The movement keeps it fresh. Peace really is a state of no longer being at a place of "strife" in your life. In other words, you deal with the antagonists to your peace! Doing this means we have to stop long enough to actually figure out what is impacting our peace - even if it is something we might be doing to ourselves! Remember - it doesn't mean we stop moving - we still need to move, but just in the right "lane"!
Assurance is just a fancy word for confidence or certainty. When the stock market begins to go haywire, housing prices plummet, people make runs on banks and stash hard earned monies into their secret hiding places in their homes just in case the banks are going to go "belly up", and the like. Why? Confidence in the system we depend upon is broken. Those who respond in panic are actually showing where it is they have placed their confidence! When confidence is misplaced, it is easy for it to be "robbed away" from us in what appears to be any kind of "distressing" or "conflicting" circumstance, isn't it? When we understand the strength of our life's foundation is Christ, we stand assured. When we haven't allowed this foundation to be built into our lives as strongly as it should be, we sometimes find ourselves a little less certain when the storms come. Captors of our freedom requires someone or something to be our captor. For a captor to actually do his job, he has to be able to over-power or out-think the one he seeks to take into captivity. It doesn't mean he has the most muscles, or the highest IQ. It means he knows how to use what it is he has at his disposal. They use their abilities to their advantage. They outsmart us by affecting our peace or mucking with our assurance. They over-power us by making us think OUR abilities are insufficient to stand up to THEIRS. Truth is - they are probably right! It isn't OUR abilities they should be faced with - it is CHRIST'S abilities WITHIN US they should have to deal with! If they come face-to-face with those abilities, they don't stand a chance of affecting our freedom in Christ!
Not sure what is bringing you a little distress today but remember what our passage declares: Distress which drives us TO God turns us around. It re-establishes our sense of peace, gives us the certainty we are on solid footing, and puts forward the power of Christ, not the mildness of our own abilities. Just sayin!