“Made Under Pressure” is a t-shirt slogan I remember seeing on a recent gym trip. Unsurprisingly, it’s a shirt made by Nike, the company that forged the can-do creed, “Just Do It.”
From a physical standpoint, muscles in the arms and legs are made under the pressure of physical weights, and the added pressure of gravity makes weight lifting all the more challenging.
Likewise, God forges our spiritual formation under pressure. As he works in our heart, how do we hold up under the pressure of trials that sporadically come our way?
Don’t Lose Sight of Your Identity
Tim Tebow knows about pressure. After playing for the Florida Gators and winning two national championships and the Heisman Trophy, Tebow was cut from three different NFL teams as a professional. Despite these momentous setbacks, Tebow has remained grounded in his faith, even when the ground around him shook. He writes in his latest book :
I like to say that identity comes not necessarily from who we are, but whose we are. I am a child of God. My foundation for who I am is grounded in my faith. In a God who loves me. In a God who gives me purpose… (Tebow, 28)
As pressure intensifies in our lives, we need to maintain a clear sense of identity so that we have the right perspective about our circumstances. As the difficulties multiply, it’s paramount that we steadfastly trust God and subsequently submit to his will for us. In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes,
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
It’s difficult to look beyond the imminent and crushing pressures of momentary afflictions. We can be short-sighted in our perspective as Christ followers, as the hardships of the here-and-now obscure our sense of eternity. Trials may rattle our faith, but we remain grounded in our identity in Christ as God’s children destined for glory, unequivocally anchored by a strong, good God who helps us in times of struggle.
Draw Near to God
Tebow references the story of Job in his book, and this compelling Old Testament narrative gives us reason to pause and consider a man intimately acquainted with pressure. In a conversation with the tempter (A.K.A. the Devil), God says,
“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8)
Pressure on Job’s life – lots of pressure – results from their dialogue. The devil snatches all of Joseph’s property and wealth, his sons and daughters perish, and he is personally afflicted with “loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7). Dismissing his wife’s remarks to curse God and die, Job instead seeks his God. He prays and asks God pointed questions (Job 13:15).
But Job’s queries about the pressures that are overwhelming his life are not all answered. Tebow writes:
In response to Job’s queries, God doesn’t give him a list of reasons why he had to go through so much, nor does he show him the purpose in the plan.
God left Job with unanswered questions, but it’s imperative to recognize that God never left Job. For, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit,” writes David (Psalm 34:18).
Though God is omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time), James indicates that as we actively pursue him in seasons of both pressure and calm, God draws near to us too. He writes, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). And the way we draw near to God is through his son, Jesus, who is also named Immanuel, which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23; John 14:6).
Consider the Pressure Jesus Endured
The pressure and subsequent loss that Job experienced foreshadows the pressure that Jesus felt as he bore the weight of our sin in his broken body on the cross. God poured out his wrath for the sin of those who would believe in him on Jesus, so that he would not have to draw near to them in judgment. As the prophet Isaiah notes, “It was the Lord’s will to crush him” (53:10).
The death of Jesus relieves his followers of the most crushing pressure—God’s wrath for sin. Paul writes that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23) We who are in Christ will physically die one day as we’re under the curse of sin by the holy and righteous God, but Christ provides forgiveness and atonement so that we will not experience the second death of an eternity spent under God’s judgment.
The full pressure of the guilt and penalty of our sin was placed on Jesus so that we would be restored to God. Accordingly, this sacrifice frees us to face the toughest of pressures, because we can draw near to the Almighty time and again.
God Is With You and For You
What pressures are you facing today? What’s keeping you up at night?
Currently, my niece is in the NICU, and my middle-school Sunday school teacher went home to God. I have career decisions to make, a wife to love and serve, and an infant to raise in the ways of Jesus.
“When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul,” writes the psalmist in Psalm 94:19. Rest assured, this life is filled with pressure and difficulty and loss. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”(John 16:33). God is with us and for us because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Draw near to God. Give your pressures to him in both questions and tears. Repeatedly return to Scripture for strength. Enlist the prayers of your family, friends, colleagues, and church. As achingly difficult as it is to worship through the hardest pains, let go of your own strength and control, and instead abide in God’s endless supply (Isaiah 40:28). Finally, remember that Christ endured the greatest pressure on the cross for my sin and yours.
Tebow encourages us:
God will come through in some way or another. Sometimes in the form of an answer to prayer, other times in the form of comfort, peace, and perspective far above what’s possible in our human strength…