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by Rev. Dan Morley, North District Superintendent

Perhaps you have read The Crucible by Arthur Miller. The story focuses upon a small town and faith community in the midst of a crucible of stress, fear, anxiety, and tension. Though it was set in the later 1600’s, the setting reminds the reader of our contemporary life. When under the pressure and heat of a crucible, one’s values, priorities, and heart are revealed.

Does the pressure of the crucible lead to loss or blessing? We each have choice in how we respond and work under pressure.

The state tree of Nevada is the Bristlecone Pine. It is said to be the oldest of trees on earth. It lives in the harshest of conditions — high elevation,  little moisture, rocky and shallow soil, fierce winds, and  freezing temperatures through most of the year. The Bristlecone is awesomely beautiful and yet odd, strange, and some might think, even homely. That is what stress does…it creates distortions and yet brilliant opportunity for life.

As the Bristlecone lives in conditions which are hostile to life, we too can find ourselves in seasons and occasions of life which are not so friendly and warm, but rather prickly and hostile. Such a situation can be called a crucible.

Though a crucible is commonly known as a physical container in which metals or other materials are melted under intense heat to purify and reshape, it is also a life experience. A crucible can be a test or situation in which there are pressures and forces bearing down which cause change. When we find ourselves in such a crucible condition, do we crumble, or strengthen? And, how can that be influenced or controlled?

Stress can be bad. Stress can be good.

Stress turned destructive breaks down the body from cell to muscle to tissue to bones. Similarly, stress can be toxic to relationships. However, stress in the right measure and proper way causes strengthening of the muscle and bone as well as the mind and spirit. In our endeavors and relationships, stress can cause one to rise to a higher level of excellence.

Protect yourself from the bad or damaging chronic stress by resting, exercising, and engaging in healthy disciplines such as eating well, prayer, scripture, study, and worship.

Use the challenging stresses in life to hone skill and increase aptitude and ability needed to tackle the problem. Just like a muscle, relationships which never face challenge or resistance, atrophy and become weak.

In our church body, we are in the test of a crucible; a season of many stressors — The Coronavirus Pandemic. Cultural decline in appreciation of the church in life and community. Aging facility. Aging membership. Litigations and accusations.

In this time, let us live in the hope given in 1 Peter 1:7 — Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory (The Message).

In Hope Through Christ,
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