January 21, 2019
This Pressure Cooker Called Life
When I was a kid, late summer brought a yearly ritual: canning season. Popping beans, shucking corn, pressing tomatoes (the grunt prep work) were the chores assigned to me and my sister. This always stole time from my outside sports plans and so I hated canning.
I remember my mother and grandmother using a pressure cooker to preserve the fruits and vegetables they grew and picked from our own gardens or local orchards. They would spend hot summer days in a steamy kitchen pouring home-grown goodness into glass jars, and then plunge them into boiling water in a pressure cooker. That pressure cooker was an essential tool to their work for two reasons. It ensured that the food was safe to eat, and it shortened the time needed to accomplish the work. A pressure cooker can be used for everyday meals, too. But using it comes with a few downsides: meats are ready fast, but they’re tough; vegetables keep their nutrients, but they lose flavor.
Have you ever been in “pressure-cooker” situations, dealing with non-stop stress, multiple priorities, constant interruptions, or emotionally charged situations? What happens to the brain when we’re under pressure like that? Our circuitry, the hardwiring necessary to get the best decision-making and spiritual worship out of the awesome mind that is YOU, is dramatically affected by stress. God gave us a great brain to respond to acute periods of stress. But longer episodes of stress are actually destructive to the brain, and thus all the areas of life our brain touches. Satan knows that and he cranks up the pressure, the stress of life, pushing us to have a ‘conforming’ mind. Our viewpoint and decisions will determine how much stress and pressure we are exposed to and whether we fan it or extinguish it, but that is a devo for a different day.
Ongoing stress causes excessive action within our immune system and endocrine system, producing high levels of cortisol and adrenaline. Prolonged activation injures brain cells, even kills some, and disrupts circuitry in the emotion, memory, and relationship centers of the brain. This is why we have trouble thinking of God’s promises, character, or past provision … trouble remembering Bible passages that soothe, and trouble connecting to God’s love, peace, comfort, and grace when we are under continual pressure or stress.
Everyone responds to stress differently. Some people just walk away. Maybe you’re competent to accomplish a task fully, but instead, do just enough to make it work. Possibly, you fall into making knee-jerk reactions, or you respond to what is urgent while avoiding what is important. It’s easy to go for the quick fix, relying on yourself, but forgetting to ask God for His guidance and wisdom. That’s exactly where Satan wants you to be. But there’s another way.
Today, when you are under pressure at work, at home, or on the street, just stop. Consider that you get to make a choice. Call on God and tell Him you need His help. This is exactly where we all need to be, “on our knees” in a position of dependence. God is delighted when we rely on His goodness, mercy and power. He has promised that He will always be with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. You can decide to let the pressure get to you … or to rely on the God who loves you. You can actually rewire that damaged circuitry, heal damaged brain cells, and literally grow new ones that will allow you to function better. The alternative is to allow stress to overwhelm you. Whether you stop and rely on Him, or you rely on yourself instead is your decision … so choose well, as it is your spiritual act of worship!
Dear God, When I consider all the pressures and demands on my life today, it feels overwhelming. It’s so hard to know what to do or even where to start. I don’t want to get by in a half-baked way. I want to live a full life, the abundant life Jesus talked about, a life that pleases You in every way. I can’t do this alone. I need and want Your help. As I call out to You. I trust You alone to give me wisdom, guidance and energy for my situation. I pray to You in the name of Your Son Jesus who had perfect brain chemistry and triumphed through the most extreme pressure cooker. And all God’s children say, “AMEN!”
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:13
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2