My washer won’t spin. It’s sad. She’s a tiny thing, just right for our RV. For years she has been my willing servant, cheerfully handling our dirty duds every day. I’ve always been glad to have her around. She still does everything else she’s supposed to do: she fills, agitates, and drains. But she absolutely will not spin. Not anymore. Not one bit. Yesterday she was polite about it, sitting there looking apologetic as I wrung out our clean but sopping-wet clothes and loaded them into our little dryer to tumble for hours. I tried again this morning, hoping that maybe a good night’s sleep was all she needed. But this time she didn’t just silently refuse to spin–she began screaming with an earsplitting shriek that brought me running to pull her plug. The friendly repairman gently delivered a diagnosis of an incurable washing-machine-motor-bearing malady. Now she’s off for a nice long rest at the home for aged appliances. Sorry, my faithful friend. You’re still cute, but without a spin cycle, you’re no longer useful. Every cycle has a purpose. To get the job done right, I need them all. I understand your scream, though, because there are cycles of life that I dread, too. Sometimes our schedule spins out of control, and I get dizzy. Or we go through an agitation cycle, when critics and crises rattle my brain and disturb my peace. And then there’s the drain cycle, when constant work without visible results empties me of joy and courage. During those cycles, neither sleep nor silence is restful, and before I’m ready, the spinning and agitation begin once more, and I wonder–if I start screeching, will somebody cart me away someplace for a nice long rest? (Please?) But then the fill cycle comes around, and it’s a good one. I know it’s here when persistence in ministry is suddenly rewarded with success I can see, when the water of the Word cleans up soiled lives and ugly stains on personal relationships are supernaturally removed. Filled with His Spirit, overflowing with gratitude, I am at rest, absolutely serene. No matter what the hectic pace or harried circumstances, I have peace beyond understanding (Philippians 4:7). I like that cycle. I like it a lot. I wish I could get stuck right there. But that’s shortsighted, flesh-focused thinking, for down deep I know that wouldn’t be good for me. I have learned that challenging cycles send me to my knees in a way that peaceful periods don’t. Seeking His serenity in the middle of turmoil brings me growth in grace that relaxation never does. My exhaustion during battles both visible and invisible simply shows me my weakness, and that releases His strength. Stress handled well builds spiritual muscles. It’s true–sorrow is better than laughter and the house of mourning than the house of feasting (Ecclesiastes 7:2-3). So I’ll do my best to keep from screaming during hard times, no matter how much I want to. I’ll take deep breaths and baby steps until the next cycle arrives. None of them last forever, but every one of them is essential. For God to get His job done through me, I need them all.