Summary: Ideas on how to handle the pressures of life.
Survivor: Surviving Pressure
1. I can remember when I was a little boy and my sister was still alive that my parents took us to a place called Santa’s North Pole near Pikes Peak in Colorado. It was an amusement park of sorts and had a variety of rides. One was a big slide you came down and it twisted around a peppermint striped pole. There were bumper cars. There were swings. And then there were the tea cups. My sister wanted to ride the teacups but I really had no desire. The teacups went around at the center in a big circle but then each individual tea cup also went around in a circle. My parents must have told the operators that my sister had cancer because I can remember that they told us at first that they would start slowly and then pick up speed or stop at any time if we needed them to. My sister who was sick with cancer, got onto those teacups and began to spin around and around and wanted the teacups to go faster and faster and the whole time she did, but there came a time when I needed the ride to stop. It wasn’t my sick sister who had difficulty with the teacups, it was me. And even remembering this event in my life, makes me sick to my stomach just a bit, causes me to feel a little queasy. And the rest of the day was ruined for me because I had gotten sick on about the second ride I went on. As long as I can remember, those rides that create pressure so that you are stuck in your seat and you can’t move while the ride spins around and around just make me sick. I want to get off if I ever make the mistake of getting on.
2. And life can be like that as well. That pressure to perform, to be good enough, to live up to everyone’s expectations, to keep going, to make more money, to have more stuff, to take care of the kids, to perform at work, and the list goes on and on. And just like that ride I took as a little boy, it can go faster and faster, causing you and I to feel more pressure until we want to yell, "Stop this ride. I need to get off." And frequently the pressure of what we think we need to do can make us nauseous.
3. And pressure can also cause us to worry, but here are some statistics to keep in mind when you feel tempted to worry,
40% of your worries will never happen.
30% concern old decisions that cannot be altered.
12% center on unfair criticism.
10% relate to health which worsens as one worries.
8% involve something you can change.
So what this tells us is pressure should only cause worry 8% of the time. But here’s the big question, how do we know if now is a part of that 8% or if it falls into one of the other 92% categories? In other words, how do we survive pressure, especially pressure that causes us to worry?
4. Survivor step number one is that when we begin to feel pressure, ask the Lord, what kind of pressure is this? What sort of worry is this causing? Is it changeable? Can I do anything about it? And if the answer you get is "no." you can relax. If the answer is yes, "than you can change". But still don’t worry. Make the change. And making the change becomes the next few survivor steps.
5. Survivor step number two is, "Believe God". Not believe in God, though that’s a good place to start, but rather, believe God. The scriptures are full of promises from God that remind us that He is ultimately concerned about us. That He loves us. I Peter 5.7 says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." Psalm 55.22 says, "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." and over and over again, throughout scripture, God tells His people to, "Do not be afraid." He promises that He will always be with us. Deuteronomy 31.6 says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." and Hebrews 13.5 says, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So, survivor step number two is, "Believe God."
6. Step number three is "listen to God." This I have learned can sometimes be as difficult as believing God. There are a lot of voices for us to listen to. So it becomes hard to discern which voice belongs to God. Sort of like a radio that’s not quite on any particular station, lots of voices can be heard but not any of them easily discerned. And what we need to attempt to do is to tune in to the one station in which we will find God’s voice. And a part of that is slowing down long enough to listen. Sometimes in our prayer life, we rush in to talk to God, drop off our list, and run out again because we are in such a hurry to get on with life in the real world. I got to get my praying down quick, give God what I need, and go. Now, what if we treated our bosses, or our spouses or our children like that? A couple of years ago, one of the cell phone companies had a great add, a father would call his kids and wife on his cell phone and because he didn’t have very many minutes, he would rush through the conversation, talking fast in short quick statements. And that’s frequently what we do when we talk with God. We don’t feel like we have time to really listen. But if we are going to survive the pressure and the worry, we need to slow down and listen to God.