Student Series: What the Gospel Says About the Pressure I Feel
Growing up as a “good kid” who came from a “good” Christian family, I went to church regularly and was involved in my youth group. In spite of all these “good” things, I have felt a lot of pressure: pressure to be good enough in the eyes of my parents, youth pastors, and even God, pressure to not fail and to not disappoint those who trust me or look up to me, pressure to do the best and be the best. I could go on. And I’m sure I’m not the only kid who has felt this way.
But the thing about pressure is that it almost always comes from ourselves. It’s true that parents and siblings and friends and employers can pressure us. But nine times out of ten, I put the burden on my own back. I set up impossible standards, and then feel anxious about not reaching them. I pressure myself to be one thing, then run myself ragged trying to be it. But you know who never puts pressure on us? Our loving Father.
The pressure I put on myself says I have to be more of this or that or you name it to be loved.
Jesus says come as you are, I love you anyway.
Pressure says I’m not enough.
Jesus says you’re enough for me to die for you.
Pressure says try harder.
Jesus says stop trying and rest.
Pressure weighs heavy on a tired soul.
Jesus says His burden is light.
When we don’t rest in the Lord’s strength and grace, pressure poisons our hearts and our ministry.
Last summer, I interned at a Christian camp in inner city Mobile. One day, about halfway through the summer, one of my fellow interns got sick, so I was put in charge of a group of girls who didn’t know me at all. These girls didn’t listen, didn’t like me, and didn’t want to be at camp that week. I attempted to teach these girls the Bible study, but they kept telling a story about a fight one of them got in and they just wouldn’t obey anything I said. I tried to gain control of the group, but it was not happening. Then they told me they couldn’t wait for their other teacher to come back to camp.
At that, I broke. I felt like a failure. I had been depending on my own strength and had put a lot of pressure on myself to do a good job and when I couldn’t teach the Bible study and the kids didn’t like me, I crumpled under the unmet expectations I put on myself. In my pride, I forgot how much I needed the Lord’s help and tried to be self-sufficient. When I couldn’t do it on my own, it was a humbling reminder that I am not capable of doing any of this on my own.
It’s a funny thing, the process of being humbled. It is terribly necessary and in some ways, refreshing, but it feels awful in the moment. It feels like everything you thought you knew about yourself is falling through. It feels like your hope is shaking a little bit—because you’ve put your hope in yourself instead of the one unshakable Hope. It feels embarrassing. But it is also so freeing.
No longer am I relying on myself for my own confidence and strength because I can now humbly see that I am not all capable of providing those things for myself.
No longer do I think I can earn God’s love, because I realize I am a dirty sinner who desperately needs grace.
No longer do I think God needs me, because I begin to remember that I am the way I am because of how the Lord has made me and grown me. It has nothing to do with what I’ve done.
Humility frees you up to love other people too, because it destroys the pride that tells you you’re better than other people. Without humility, it’s impossible to realize just how good God is and to love others authentically.
Pressure cannot coexist with genuine humility. When your pride has been knocked down by the overwhelming grace of God, you see you can’t bear the weight of this pressure. Humility tells you that you cannot do all these things you’ve been trying to do on your own, but that Jesus made you to depend on him to do what you cannot. Being humbled rips those burdens of pressure right off your back, and it’s painful.
I got used to the heavy burdens of pressure. I didn’t really mind them – I put them there. I could see and feel and control these burdens when they were on my back. But we will always fail under that pressure because we were not created to live with it.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I hold on to those heavy burdens way too tight. Pride makes us take things out of God’s hands and try to handle them on our own. It’s a skewed view of ourselves and of God that brings the pressure in the first place. An accurate and humble understanding of the way God made us and our need for him takes away the prideful pressure to be self-sufficient. We replace trust in an Almighty God with pressure on our feeble selves
In conclusion, I am declaring that this pressure is overrated. It’s false and unnecessary. It’s rooted in pride. When we see kids in youth ministry who feel this pressure to perform, let’s remind them that they were not made to do life on their own. In humility and faith, may we cast all our burdens and anxieties upon Him, instead of pridefully trying to handle our own burdens and putting a pressure on ourselves that we were not made to bear.