I have never really enjoyed being pregnant. I think God might have missed me when he sprinkled that pregnancy glow on at the three month mark. I’ve heard about it but didn’t experience it.
The problem with pregnancy is that you get fatter (we are going to new levels of revelation today). You grow. Your stomach grows and grows. You get to a stage about four weeks out from your due date where you are feeling as big as a house and you actually feel like you could not get any bigger. You are sure that if you got any bigger you would burst. Your skin feels so thin that the little alien baby inside you is sure to break through that skin. Then there are all of those lovely, well meaning people who tell you that your baby will do nothing but grow in these last few weeks and he is only going to get bigger and bigger. Great! That is just what I want to hear. Surely my skin can’t stretch any further. But miraculously, it does!!!
It will stretch and more growth will come.
Many of us can relate to that feeling in our lives I am sure. That feeling of being stretched to capacity – you feel like you couldn’t do anymore, take anymore, give anymore, reach anymore, stretch anymore!
Maybe you are facing an opportunity that seems scary or daunting – it’s going to take some stretch. Perhaps you are praying for something and it’s not happening as quickly or as easily as you had hoped – its going to take some stretch in your prayer life.
What you are facing could be causing a testing of your faith – it’s going to require some stretch. There are times when an area of our character is being tested; patience, endurance, trust. It is demanding more stretch from you.
Whether you are mid-stretch, full stretch or you are avoiding the stretch altogether, know this; it is uncomfortable, it’s not easy, it will be difficult, it might be painful and it will require more stretch from you. But here is what we need to keep in mind:
In the stretch zone you learn things that the comfort zone can’t teach you.
For the next two posts I am going to take a look at two women in the old testament whose stories run parallel and find common ground along the way.
We will start with the first woman in 1 Kings 17.
To set up our story, we need to know that at this time God had spoken to the prophet Elijah. Elijah prophecies that for the next few years there will be no rain and no crops will grow.
Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.” But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!” So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah. 1 Kings 17: 8-16
Here is a woman who is stretched. She is stretched to her limit and then this man of God comes along and asks her to stretch some more. She is stretched with her provisions, she is saying “I have nothing left, this is all I have to give and you are asking me to give more? I can’t do what you are asking me to do”.
One thing we need to know in the stretching seasons:
There is supply in the stretch.
Her moment of stretch, a difficult and uncomfortable time, became an opportunity for God to bring a miracle into her world.
Her miracle came when she stretched. God supplied her need.
When you choose to allow God to stretch you, when you choose to step out of your comfort zone and start living in the stretch zone, it brings opportunity for God’s miracle working power to be present in your life.
In the comfort zone it’s easy. You know what to do in the comfort zone. You know how to respond in the comfort zone. You have all you need in the comfort zone.
The stretch zone however, requires more from us than we feel we have to give. The stretch zone brings us to a place of realising we can’t do it on our own. The stretch zone is where our competencies end and God’s provision begins.
It is when we step into the stretch zone that we need His strength, His power, His authority and His presence in our lives. There is supply in the stretch.
In the stretch he supplies not just for our needs, He also supplies strength when we think we can’t keep going. He supplies his power when we feel like we are facing the impossible. He supplies his presence when we feel alone, hopeless and fearful.
When Steve and I were pastoring the church in Whangarei we were living in the stretch zone. We were leading the church through a difficult season. There were issues that were bigger than us. Let’s be honest, we had no idea what we were doing. There were so many meetings that Steve and I would go into and before going we would pray, “God, you had better turn up because if you don’t we are all in trouble!” I can honestly say that in every meeting God provided. He provided wisdom, he provided words, he provided strategy. I remember sitting in awe so many times as I listened to the words coming out of my husband’s mouth. I would often say to him after the meeting, “Where did you get that? How did you know to say that?” The answer was always the same, “I have no idea, the words just came, it was as if I was listening to someone else’s words coming out of my mouth.” In our stretch He supplied just what we needed for just the right moment.
What stretching season are you facing today? Are you feeling completely out of your comfort zone? What is it that you need from God? Maybe it is time to let go, and let God provide.
Stop striving to achieve in your own strength what God has already secured for you through His Son.
Rest, comfort, peace, provision, love, wisdom, grace, freedom, acceptance. These are already yours through Christ.
Now go out there and live like you believe it.
Next week I will be introducing you to the second woman. This woman didn’t just experience the stretch, she invited it! I am also going to throw in a killer conclusion – it’s the best ending, I promise.