The Pressure Cooker

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If you’re a certified, card-carrying member of the human race, then you’re probably aware that life here on this planet can often be a serious pressure cooker.

Pressures and stresses can come at us from every side and in an almost endless variety on a daily basis.

There’s the stress that goes with pretty much any job, career, or entrepreneurial endeavor.

And when it comes to our professions and other aspects of our lives, we often feel pressured to live up to other people’s expectations, as well as our own.

Financial difficulty is its own world of stress, particularly when it involves scrounging from paycheck to paycheck and trying to make it work when the math just isn’t adding up.

Health problems, both for ourselves and people we love, can pump a lot of stress and anxiety into our systems and pile on even more financial pressure.

A whole bunch of stuff going wrong at the same time is always a stress fest.

Technological gizmos not working like they’re supposed to can produce a very strong desire to break something.

People driving like jerks or like they’ve got a death wish tends to crank up the blood pressure.

And probably more than anything else, relational problems and conflicts – whether it’s with a spouse, family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, or whoever – can stress us out on a deep level that makes all the other stresses of life even worse and harder to deal with.

As for myself, I usually do alright with a moderate level of stress, but when the pressure starts getting high, I can get a bit grumpy and not too pleasant to be around. 

But when the stress just keeps coming and that pressure gauge keeps climbing, day after day, week after week, month after month – at some point I start eyeing the exits and plotting ways to get out of that boiling pot.

Still, there’s another part of me that knows that just fleeing from stressful situations to escape unpleasant feelings is not really a good answer. And there have been some instances I can clearly remember when a flight from stress turned out to be a swan dive from the frying pan into the fire.

When I’m being honest with myself, I have to admit that much of the stress I experience in life comes from my own ill-advised, short-sighted decisions – or from the negative, self-centered lens through which I’m choosing to view my own circumstances.

And when I’m being even more honest with myself, I have to acknowledge that most of the things in life that are worth pursuing or preserving require pushing forward through difficulties and obstacles and the inevitable stress that goes with that. Nothing truly worthwhile ever comes easy or without some degree of sacrifice.

Of course, that leads to the essential question: Is this thing or situation or relationship that’s stressing me out really worth it? That’s not always an easy question to answer, and often it can take some time and prayer and seeking advice and arguing with myself before that answer becomes clear.

But beyond the issue of whether or not something or someone is ultimately worth the stress involved, I think all these things can serve a deeper, higher purpose. I believe our Heavenly Father (if we let Him) will use the stresses and pressures we experience to make changes that need to be made, both in our circumstances and (more importantly) inside our hearts.

It’s often hard, and sometimes it really, really sucks – but if we’ll turn to Him in times of stress and let Him do His thing, He’ll use the pressure cookers of our lives to prepare an amazing meal and then invite us to sit down beside Him at the table. 

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