When I first began gardening, a graduate student at Penn State taught me all about “hardening off” my seedlings. She told me to take the plants I had grown indoors and gradually expose them—for just a few hours each day—to the sunlight, wind, and changing temperatures of the outdoors. This would “harden” them to make the transition to their new garden location healthier.
A gradual exposure to the elements would prevent transplant shock.
A gradual exposure to stress would strengthen the plants and prepare them.
You have to strengthen the plants first.
I remembered what I learned about “stress wood” in trees and the failure of the famous Biosphere 2 which tried to create perfect conditions to grow trees in an ecological dome. Of course, the trees suffered and fell down because the environment lacked wind. No wind, no stress. No stress, no strength in the trees. No strength, no standing. What researchers thought were perfect conditions without stress actually damaged those trees.
Stress, it seems, is good.
I love thinking of my own life as a form of hardening off or a way I’m building “stress wood” inside to help me grow in the environment God has planned for me. Every difficult thing is a gentle exposure to strengthen me.