Pressure, aka stress, seems to “amp up” with the onset of the holidays. We add extra cooking and cleaning, extra shopping, coordinating family activities and get-togethers, traveling or hosting guests, parties at school and work to prepare for and attend, special programs at church, etc., to already busy schedules.
Mix in all the unspoken pressure to decorate the house from roof to foundation inside and out, to buy the perfect gifts for everyone, including people you rarely see and may not even like (which adds financial and mental stress), and to keep up with all the traditions we’ve adopted or which have been foisted upon us by marketing geniuses over the past few centuries. Throw in a bit of nostalgia for emotional turmoil and you have a “perfect storm” of pressure.
(If you’ve never watched this music video for “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen, circa 1981, take a peek. Some things never change. Well, our movie vampires and werewolves have gotten a lot cuter…)
Most of us, myself included, spend an inordinate amount of time trying to escape pressure in any form, good or bad. Much of our squirming accomplishes little more than rearranging the pressure by juggling our schedule, or improving our organizational skills, or reprioritizing our task lists, or just avoiding things we don’t like. But maybe we aren’t always supposed to get out from under pressure. What if we could let it work for us for good?
|Photo by beautifulcataya on flickr|
Think about this:
- Pressure (and heat) are responsible for creating gemstones out of chunks of common elements.
- Adding pressure speeds up the cooking process, resulting in a finished product in less time.
- Put pressure and steam together and tremendous amounts of power can be generated.
- Time pressure, like deadlines and goal setting, has been proven to improve productivity.
- Physical pressure (resistance training) increases muscle strength AND bone mass.
Do you see it? Pressure isn’t necessarily a negative… IF we harness it. So how do we do that? Jesus gave us a clue…
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.](John 16:33-17:1 AMP)
He told us to expect pressure, told us we would have it (something we tend to forget as Christians), but how did he tell us to deal with it? Four simple words: “be of good cheer.” Really? That’s it? That’s the key to the resistance that will harness the power of pressure for good? I think so.
“Being of good cheer” goes beyond being happy. Being of good cheer is about taking courage, being bold, and having a good attitude. It’s about being kind to others, about choosing peace instead of strife, about believing the best of every person and in every situation.
Whining, pouting, grumbling, griping, complaining, and having a pity party are the opposite of “being of good cheer.” And yet, isn’t that what’s most tempting to do when pressure comes? That should clue us in. The things that seem easiest to our flesh are often the very things that make us weak and vulnerable. That temptation to collapse under pressure and give in to all those negative thoughts and emotions swirling around is a trap! That’s the enemy of our soul trying to set us up to be trampled by our circumstances.
The prophet Nehemiah put it this way: “… for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The complete verse is is wonderfully applicable for this season.
He continued, “Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything: This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!”
(Neh 8:10, The Message)
Being of good cheer, choosing joy, strengthens us from the inside out, so that we can stand when pressure comes, and as we stand, we will be changed. So let’s put on on our happy faces, accentuate the positive, turn those frowns upside-down, and let pressure transform us instead of being trampled by it.