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Tension Without Closure

By Tim Hartzell

Do you remember last year’s Super Bowl and the final game of the Little League World Series?
As we get to know the heart, the emotional part of us, an understanding of tension and closure is necessary. Tension is stress and strain — anxiousness and worry. Closure is peace and calm — contentment and fulfillment. Experiencing the back-and-forth flow of the emotions during tension and closure is so important to us that we actually use sports and entertainment to provide us with an emotional jolt.
Did you stay up to watch the entire Super Bowl? Many people didn’t. When Atlanta took a twenty-five point lead in the third quarter, most people assumed the game was a blow-out, so they went to bed. Why watch a game when it’s obvious who is going to win? Everyone knows that what makes a game exciting is the tension of not knowing how it will end. Those who went to bed assumed they knew — they were wrong.
Half-way through the third quarter, New England started a miraculous comeback. They tied the game by scoring twenty-five unanswered points and ended up winning in overtime. Anyone who stayed up to watch was rewarded with an incredible emotion-packed experience. The tension didn’t close until the very last play of the game!
A similar emotional rollercoaster ride was experienced by those who watched the Little League World Series final between Maine-Endwell, New York, and Seoul, South Korea. It was a nail-bitter that ended in a score of 2-1, and gave the United States its first championship team since 2011. The tension of the game was palpable until the very last out.
We like using sports — and movies and television shows — to provide tension and closure because the entire emotional experience happens in a span of three to four hours. In many ways, these contained experiences provide an escape from real life.
Sadly, we need that escape because too many of us live in constant tension without closure. We are overwhelmed by packed calendars, overdue bills, relentless responsibilities and strained relationships. The cost of constant tension, or stress, is very high. Stress keeps the Autonomic Nervous System operating in fight and flight mode. Necessary functions are slowed or shut down as adrenalin and cortisol (stress hormones) are released by the adrenal glands into our system. This constant stress contributes to health problems like obesity, heart disease, type II diabetes, depression, anxiety, gastro-intestinal problems and asthma — the result of what happens when we live in constant tension without the peace of closure.
Tension without closure exists in our spiritual lives also. Romans 3:23-24 summarizes spiritual tension and closure in one powerful statement, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Do you see it? “All have sinned” — that’s the tension. “Justified freely by his grace” – that’s the closure.
Sin results in tension between God and us. Because it is a spiritual and relational tension, we try to ignore it or pretend that it doesn’t exist. But deep down inside, we instinctively know that something is wrong. Stressed relationships can be put on the back burner, but even tucked out of the way they create a drag that affects every area of life.
The Bible describes this state of tension. Hebrews 2:15 calls it a “slavery to the fear of death.” Isaiah 9:2 refers to it as “the people walking in darkness”. In Genesis 3:10, Adam described it as shame, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” In Romans 7:24, Paul said it this way, “What a wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
God designed us to live in fellowship with Him — enjoying His love and accomplishing His purposes. If that fellowship is broken, we instinctively know it — though we may not care to admit it. The tension exists very deeply within us. We have the ability to hide it or even ignore it. But in the quiet, when we can hear our deepest thoughts, we know that something is wrong — we are living in tension without closure.
God knows. In Christ Jesus He has provided a way to spiritual closure and peace. And because we are first and foremost spiritual beings, this closure is necessary to our fundamental well-being. It is likely that your out-of-control calendar, ever increasing debt and constantly strained relationships have much to do with your broken relationship with God. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. It’s time for peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” This is Jesus speaking to you in John 15:27. Listen with your heart. Next week we’ll take the conversation a little further.
(To read previous articles in this series, please visit