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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Sweating it; the Blessing of Eustress

(This reading is based on Psalm 63, read in accordance with the Revived by His Word initiative of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.)

"My soul thirsts for You... in a dry and thirsty land, where there is no water." Ps 63: 1

The expression , "No sweat" is one that is used to suggest that an existing situation is not a stressor to the individual facing it. This could either mean that the implications of the situation are immaterial, or that the requirements of the circumstance can be easily met. So we say, "no sweat!"

Psalm 63 voices David's insatiable yearning for God - consistent with his desire for something real and substantial. This desire is compared to a deep thirst as can be experienced in a desert journey. Well, I've never experienced a desert trip, but I have worked and played hard in the sun and dripped sweat like morning dew from a banana tree. Those experiences can sure work up a major thirst. 

The search for truth/for substance/for reality is one that is initially motivated by a basic, innate desire (thirst) that intensifies as the search progresses; the more we experience God, the more we desire Him. We are drawn both by an intense love and admiration for Him as well as by a compelling desire to become more like Him. And because the closer we get to Him the more sinful we appear in our own eyes - the more intense then becomes our desire to be like Him. Hence, our thirst for God intensifies - even as we seek fresh springs of water to quench this thirst. This is a matter of substantial consequence that produces a healthy level of stress (eustress) and resultant sweating.

Eustress

Eustress describes that healthy level of motivation(stress) to relate to a matter with the due importance that it carries for our lives. The situation is material, it is of consequence, and we must handle it accordingly. When we neglect to treat these important situations responsibly they may develop into circumstances of grave distress (an unhealthy level of stress). In his search for purpose David is satisfied that the path of the wicked leads to a dead-end; to a state of distress, so there's no point in going that route. He instead seeks a relationship with God. He declares, "Your lovingkindness is better than life" (verse 3). He's in effect saying, "If living is without You, I'd rather not live. Dying for You is better than just living."
                                                  
Jesus had come to the crossroads of choosing between just staying alive and doing God's will, which would bring death; He chose the will of His Father. We would also recall that that very situation (His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane) was one that produced great amounts of sweat - as if they were great drops of blood ("And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground," Luke 22: 44). This could have easily become a distressful situation, but Jesus handled it well... He prayed.

Sweating

Sweating is one of nature's ways of expelling waste from our bodies; it is a healthy bodily function. It is sometimes deemed inconvenient however - hence the high incidence of antiperspirant deodorants and air conditioning units being used. Ones physical environment or activities can produce sweat. So also can intense mental processes. Jesus' sweating in the Garden was primarily a mentally initiated one.

The idea of sweating in our spiritual walk is not a far-fetched or an outrageous one. It is very consistent with biblical metaphors used to describe our pursuit of a relationship with God. Jeremiah 29: 13 says, "You shall seek and find me when you shall search for me with all your heart." That sure sounds like a sweat-producing endeavour. Then the Apostle Paul uses the analogy of running a race to admonish the Corinthian brethren to persevere, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain." 1 Cor. 9: 24.  In Hebrews 12: 1 (the last part) we're told, "...and let us RUN with patience the RACE that is set before us."  When in Eccl. 9:11 the wise man Solomon says, "The race is not to the swift," he would really want to tell us that this race is not a sprint; it's a marathon.  

Father in Heaven what a wonderful privilege it is that we have You to fill this void inside each of us.  Today we recommit to having You dwell within us. Please come in and never leave we pray in Jesus' name, amen.

To read and/or listen to Psalm 63 and to read other related blogs, please visit here.