The last two months have been absolutely incredible. Our family business, CCI, has had a major software project that had to be completed in January. Teri and I have been finishing our newest book, Keeping Our Children’s Hearts. I have had a message to produce for our church each week. Plus we have had a myriad of other issues surface in our family and ministry that have required mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. All of that had to be kept in right priority in relation to my walk with the Lord and my time and attention for my family.
Pressure is something we all have to deal with. It is a fact of life. When you are dead, there is no longer any pressure, provided you are saved. If one doesn’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior, then whatever pressure this life can muster is nothing compared to eternity in hell. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). However, in keeping our thoughts on what we are facing day to day, I know that most dads are accustomed to facing pressure. How do you react to it?
My natural tendency is to convert pressure into stress—the greater the pressure, the greater the stress. When there is a long line of people requiring things from me, and the “shelves of time” are stocked very sparingly, stress begins to mount. Then when I’m feeling very stressed, I tend to be irritable and self-focused. To make matters worse, sleep can become more difficult with growing stress. Being tired introduces a whole new set of negative factors into the equation. Uggh! It is easy to understand the attitude of several men at the homeless mission. They don’t mind being there because they have no responsibilities and nothing pressuring them. Life may not be easy for them, but it is simple.
A law of nature is that pressure tends toward equalization. This means that pressure must meet an opposite pressure to stabilize or it will dissipate on its own. It seems like this can be applied to us as well. If we are feeling a lot of pressure from the outside, instead of letting the pressure dissipate on its own, we will tend to ramp up the stress and worry on the inside to counteract the outside pressure we are feeling. However, is this the life Jesus desires for us? In calling us to be busy and fruitful, does that mean the Lord intends for us to live under constant pressure, with worry and stress?
What does Scripture teach us about this? We don’t find the word “stress” in Scripture, but there are still verses that apply. Could it be that we are not to be stressed over small things, but it’s okay to be stressed about big issues such as the needs of our family? “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matthew 6:25). “Take no thought” means do not worry. That seems to make it clear, doesn’t it? We are not to worry. I believe the American equivalent of worry is stress. This verse is saying we are not to be stressed.
Jesus is not just suggesting we aren’t to be stressed—He is commanding it. An uncomfortable way of saying this might be that worry is sin and feeling stressed is sin. If stress weren’t bad enough, now we are adding the challenge of calling it sin. God did not intend for us to live our lives full of worry or stress.
To acknowledge we are stressed is no different from acknowledging we are angry or bitter. They are all sin. We need to confess worry or stress as sin and forsake it. Is not our God capable of dealing with any situation at hand? Yes, of course He is!
I have an analogy I share with the children in appropriate situations: “Anyone can rest in a hammock in the backyard on a beautiful spring day. To rest in a hammock that is tied between two masts on a boat in a storm is entirely something else. In the storm is where we really learn how to rest.” If God didn’t allow times like these, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn how to rest in Jesus.
I often think about the disciples in the boat in the middle of the storm. “And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm” (Matthew 8:24-26). This was no little storm. The Greek word for tempest is seismos, and it means a gale or an earthquake. These men had every reason to be afraid.
Several of His disciples were fishermen and accustomed to storms, yet they were afraid of dying. Should they have been afraid? Weren’t they in the boat with Jesus? Jesus had told them in Matthew 8:18 “to depart unto the other side.” Had they believed His Word, they would have had confidence He would fulfill His Word to them. Yet, in the terrible storm, they were afraid and woke Jesus up. What was the first thing Jesus did? He rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith, and then He rebuked the wind and the seas. The terrible storm provided the opportunity for Jesus’ disciples to trust in Him.
Which do you think would impart greater learning? For Jesus and the disciples to sit around a warm campfire on the beach while Jesus tells them they can always rely on Him, even during their greatest trial, or for them to be close to drowning and see Jesus command the wind and the waves to be silent?
As we neared the deadline for our software, we encountered what seemed to be a major architectural problem. New requirements had been added by the customer as we progressed, but there had not been time to step back to make the extensive changes required. Finally, a problem surfaced, and it looked hopeless. Our programmer and I were discussing the seriousness of what was just discovered. Just before hanging up, the programmer said something like, “It will be okay. God has always worked in one way or another in situations like these in the past.”
That wasn’t positive thinking on his part—it was fact. Over the years we have worked together, we have seen God do amazing things. Many times, a difficulty has arisen that was darker and more ominous than any previous problem. When that happens, we pray and do our best while we depend on His grace. Each situation has worked out for good. The problems are not always fixed like we intended, but in some way, there has always been an acceptable resolution. That isn’t positive thinking. It is reliance on our Lord. If God didn’t allow times like these, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn how we can further depend on Him.
How do you respond to pressure and difficulties? Are you thankful for them? “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience” (Romans 5:3). Do we desire to be conformed to the image of Christ? “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29).
The trials and pressures we face are not just for our own benefit, but for our children as well. Our children read us like a book. What sort of “story” are the children reading in our lives? Do they see that their dad has a real relationship with Jesus Christ, and He is at work in their dad’s life? Does Dad depend on Him, and is Dad at peace in the middle of the storms that come? If the answer is yes, we are demonstrating the reality of a life based on Jesus Christ. That will speak volumes to them. More teaching will go on during difficult times than during any discussion.
I’m reminded again of a time when we were at a homeschool conference. A mother asked to sit in one of the chairs behind the table and attend to the needs of her young child. I watched in awe as this precious mommy gently took care of her child. She shared how her child would soon die, and she had to care for him in this way every hour around the clock. What a heartbreaking situation, and yet there was no bitterness or stress, just gentleness and patience to the glory of God. I will never forget what I observed in her life.
Do we desire that our family and others would observe the fruit of the Spirit in our lives? If so, may we look at the pressures and problems that come our way this next month as allowed by God to conform us to the image of His Son. If we will welcome them, they are opportunities to draw close to Jesus and see Him work in our lives. “And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39).