From the book of James (The Message):
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
It’s taken me some time to accept the wisdom in the paragraph above from James 1: 2-4 in the Bible. I suppose it comes with maturity on many fronts. I relate it to people in their 50s and 60s who are asked if they would ever trade their current lives to go back to their teens and early twenties. Almost without fail they respond saying they would not give up all they have learned and experienced to return to those pre-maturing years of days gone by. As I go through the aches and pains of decades gone by I realize how those experiences have shaped me to be the person I am. I can’t say I’ve reached “lack of deficiency”, but let’s say I’m less deficient now than I was 20 years ago. I’m able to scoff at certain deficiencies, but still there are some that just can’t be denied…so far.
How many situations have you trudged through in your life that looked unbeatable and bleak on the side going in to it and brought great clarity, knowledge and even peace once you got through them and stood on the other side? A wise person taught me about the history of a related text from Roman’s about suffering. We are told to “glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” More pressure? Really?
In the original Greek translation of the Bible the concept of pressure related to the pressure exerted by a press in order for the “juice” to flow and ultimately produce wine or olive oil. No pressure, no juice. No juice, no wine or oil. Paul, the author of Romans, says that no matter what the “pressure” God’s people deal with produces endurance (toughness) which produces character (maturity) which produces hope (a present conviction with a future fulfillment) and he says, “…hope does not disappoint us.”
Based on my own personal experience I would think I’d be pretty tough by now according to what I learned above. I kind of wish I was at my toughness capacity. That would mean that I’d be like a super-hero who, when pelted by bullets of disappointment, sadness, anxiety, depression, pain, despair, (insert your “deficiency” here), could just bounce them right off my (very fashionable of course) Teflon super-hero costume.
But, I’ve got a lot to learn still. Unfortunately, that means there is likely more pressure to be had here. I need to let it happen. I need it so I can mature, be well-developed, and get on to not being deficient in any way. The promise of that benefit is so appealing that I want to take my time going through the pressures surrounding me. I think if I keep reminding myself of God’s unfailing love, that pressure makes me tougher, more mature and hopeful, and that those characteristics are actually gifts, then I can be on my way to getting that super-hero costume. The question of fitting into it is entirely different.
May God bless you today with the gift of a challenge that strengthens you and your development in the coming days so that as more challenges confront you the pressure is lessened.