I hate pressure!

I hate pressure.
High-pressure sales-people.
Financial pressure.
A to-do list that is too long with days that are too short.
Demands on my time and attention.
The weight of not measuring up to my own standard, let alone God’s perfect standard.

I love pressure.
Strong water pressure in the shower.
The pressure of my hair stylist’s fingers as she gives me her trademark scalp massage.
The wonderful homemade canned goods that we can enjoy year-long because they have been in my Mom’s pressure canner.
The (mostly) happy pressure of preparing for a wonderful upcoming event, like a wedding or baby’s arrival.

It is a part of life.
Every single day.
I can’t escape it – the good and the bad.

And sometimes often it is a mixed bag.
That thing I prayed for and am delighted by brings with it added stress, added pressure.
I am relieved to be heading out on vacation but stressing about the details left behind and the ones that lie ahead.
I love getting together with a friend, meeting halfway around the Beltway; I hate the stress and pressure that come from driving halfway around the Beltway.
I am grateful for the new air conditioner that will be installed this week; I am stressing about how to pay for it.

Pressure. Stress.
Good and bad.
And always there.

And because it is always there, I love this verse that is tucked away in the longest chapter in the Bible. David says to the Lord, “When pressure and stress bear down on me, I delight in Your Word.” (Psalm 119:143). Or, as the New Living Bible translates it, “As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in Your commands.”

Notice David doesn’t say, “IF pressure and stress bear down on me, THEN I will delight in Your Word.” Nope.
It is “When”.
And if anybody knew anything about “when”, it was David.

Plucked out of obscurity as a young teenager by God, through the prophet Samuel, he knew he was to be the next King of Israel.
But that didn’t happen for approximately 17 years.
And in between, the current King, Saul, called him a variety of things.
First Saul called David “shield bearer” and “harp player”.
Then it was “hero” for defeating the giant Goliath.
“Commander” of his troops.
“Captain of my body guard.”
And even “son-in-law”.
But then it became “rival”.
And even “one who must die”. “My enemy.”
And “enemy” quickly led to “fugitive” as David fled from Saul for years.

The man knew about pressure and stress. From good sources and bad. The stress of being a leader. Of going to battle. Of being in the King’s Court.
And the stress of being misunderstood. Falsely accused. Betrayed. Hunted.

The stresses of life are constant.
They may not be as extreme as those that David faced.
But they are constant.
And they are even promised in Scripture.
Jesus said it.
He said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” (emphasis mine)
The pressure comes.
Sometimes of my own making. Consequences of my sin. Reaping what I have sown.
And sometimes because I live in a fallen, sin-soaked world.
Often because I have an enemy who hates God and therefore hates me. And I am always on the battlefield in the spiritual realms, just as you are.
Constant. Pressure.

But David knew the secret.
God called him “a man after My own heart”.
One who followed after God with everything that was in him.
One who persevered for all those years between the promise and the fulfillment.
One whose prayer life has given us over half of the book of Psalms.
One whose life is (for the most part) a terrific example to follow.

“When pressure and stress bear down on me, I delight in Your Word.”
David clung to the promises of God.
He consciously remembered the history of God’s people as well as his personal history with the Lord.
As he chose to remember God’s Word, he heard God’s voice – above the tumult that was his life.
And he not only knew it in his head, he cradled it in his heart.
But even that would have been useless if he had not applied it to his life.
He lived God’s commands.
Even when it was hard.

Like the two times that he had the opportunity to kill Saul and immediately become the next King. Both times happened while he was actively running from Saul and the thousands of soldiers accompanying him who were determined to annihilate David. And both times, men that David loved and trusted encouraged him to kill Saul! But both times, David clung to God’s Word, obeyed God’s commands, and chose to honor God above his own life. And God honored him for it.

“When pressure and stress bear down on me, I delight in Your Word.”
When I don’t know how I will pay the bill that is coming, I will trust You, God, to provide instead of worrying about it.
When I am in conflict with a brother or sister, I will first turn to You in prayer before I respond.
When I am sad, lonely, stressed, depressed, overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious or afraid, I will turn to You first.
Before I phone a friend.
Or reach for chocolate.
Or lose myself in a TV show.
Or exercise.
Or do anything at all.
Before all that, I will turn to You. And Your Word. Praying. Reading. Listening to God-centered music. Being still before You. Pouring out my heart before You.
Choosing to believe that all of the above will make a difference. Regardless of my emotions.
Or my circumstances.
You will be my first thought, not an afterthought.

Because pressure breaks me down.
But You make the broken beautiful.

Pressure, heat and time – these are the ingredients for diamonds.

In this world, I will have trouble, trials and tribulations.
There will be pressure.
But You have overcome the world.
So I will delight in Your Word.
Including the example of Your servant David.

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