We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope . . . as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted to us in answer to the prayers of many. (2Cor 1:8-11)
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. (Ps. 34:4-6)
“We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” (Dan. 9:18)
for it is God who works in you to will and to act to fulfill his good purpose. (Phil 2:13)
Feeling pressured is a common experience in our culture, and seems to increase the more “advanced” we become. Like pain, pressure is a signal that something needs to be addressed. There is the extreme pressure that results from life-threatening situations. There’s the pressure to meet urgent needs that derails our routines. There’s the pressure to succeed at work, at school, at parenting, and the list goes on. The extreme and the urgent are pressures we must meet; the other pressures in our lives are imposed by the expectations of others and/or ourselves.
Of course, there are good pressures and bad ones, good stress and bad. The pressure to run outside when your house is on fire is a good pressure; the pressure to grab all you can before getting out not so much. In all cases, it’s instructive to know the source of the pressure and the validity of it before we decide how — or if — we should handle it.
Pressure to meet every need you see isn’t from God. Satan is pleased when we make ourselves so busy trying to be God to all we meet that we have no time or energy to hear from Him what He does want us to do. In our desire to do everything we can to honor God, we can spread ourselves so thin that instead of being on fire for Him, we’re just burned out.
As with all things, God can use what pressures us as a tap on the shoulder, a nudge on the arm, or even a shove to the knees to show us our need to rely on Him. If we don’t notice the first two, the third will likely get our attention.
When we seek God, He responds. God also responds to the prayers of others for us, as Paul points out. Our prayers may not be perfectly put together, but they are never wasted. A heart that truly cries out to God makes a difference. We may not always be delivered from our circumstances, but were are delivered from our fears. Fears cripple; trust liberates. Giving ourselves and our fears over to His keeping frees us to leave the outcomes in God’s hands, and keeps us from grabbing them back again. His Holy Spirit can then work in us so that what we want and what we do is in line with God’s purposes.
Thankfully, we don’t have to be flawless to approach God. In fact, if we think we’ve got it all together, our prayers won’t be heard. (Luke 18:9-14) We pray, not because we’re superior, but because God is full of mercy. The more we’re aware of our own poverty, the more we can rely on His riches of love, guidance and grace. And He, infinitely above all other beings, can be absolutely relied on.
That confidence, that total dependence on the truth of God’s goodness, produces an inner light that shines out radiantly. We exude light when we allow the Spirit within to grow and glow. We are in fact basking in the light of Christ.
And that light shows — radiantly.