Life in the pressure cooker


We had a big pressure-cooker in the house I shared with 11 other guys as an undergraduate. It was always threatening to blow up if you didn’t treat it well, and take a load of potatoes along with it.

I spent a day recently trying to help three different people whose life is in the pressure cooker. All three situations were very serious and bringing almost unbearable stress and pain.

Life in the pressure cooker is not easy. We manage to fall into it different ways. Sometimes it’s our own stupidity. Sometimes it’s a complicated mixture. Sometimes it’s just stuff that happens totally out of our control.

The only thing we can manage is our response. And even that can be very hard when our resources have been so depleted. But there are two keys to surviving.

One is the lifeline of our relationship with God. I never fail to be amazed at how God hears my desperate and despairing cries at those low moments. One thing about God -- he is always there. That is one of his names -- Yahweh shammah, which means “the Lord is there.”

It doesn’t matter where “there” is. That’s where you’ll find him.

No matter how deep your darkness, God always has a light to turn on. But you have to ask.

The second key is friends and family you can count on. We all need friends who will also be “there” when trouble strikes. Cultivate friendships in the good times. Be there for others. Cast your bread on the waters and it will return. I can guarantee it.

And remember if you need to ask God for help, you also need to ask your friends. It never ceases to amaze me how we fail to reach out for the support we need. Sometimes we feel too ashamed, sometimes we’re too proud. Get over it. Let your friends help you. Tell them how bad things are. Their job is to help you: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

And so the question arises: “Where is God in all this?”

The answer is obvious. God is in the pressure cooker. Even though it may not be accurate to say he created it (after all, he is not the author of sin, sickness or any other earthly disaster or misfortune), he still is watching over it and using it.

The pressure cooker has a more Biblical name: the refiner’s fire. It’s where James tells us to count it all joy. It’s where Peter tells us our faith is being refined to bring forth gold.

Of course you can’t see any of that when you’re in the middle of it. That’s where it’s up to God and friends to carry you through. But when you look back, the gold is there.

And if there’s someone you know in extreme need, go just sit with them. A friend of mine was executive assistant to Margaret Thatcher. One day the great lady found a staff member in tears. Her husband had recently died. Mrs. Thatcher stopped her activities at once and focussed all her attention on this lady. She went and made a cup of tea, and then sat with her until she felt better. That was the best use the Prime Minister of Great Britain had for her time that day.

The God of all creation is there to sit with you until you’re through your crisis. Just ask him.

Your faith is proven real in the pressure cooker. You have faith even when you think you don’t. When all you can do is cry out to God in utter desperation, that’s all the faith you need. And out of that faith he will bring his gold.

When things look hopeless, just remember they’re not.

And that old pressure cooker never did blow up. It kept turning raw potatoes into something as reasonably edible as 12 young men who were more interested in either studying or partying could produce!