A crucial dynamic of handling stress is knowing that the strength within must be greater than the pressure without. A great example of this is the contrast between the aquatic life in the depths of the ocean and a bathysphere.
A bathysphere is a miniature submarine used to explore the ocean at depths that would easily crush a conventional submarine. Bathyspheres compensate for the pressure with steel plates, several inches thick, successfully keeping the water out. But, they are also heavy and hard to maneuver. And when the external lights are turned on, you can see numerous fish through the thick plate-glass windows.
These deep-sea fish cope with the extreme pressure of their environment in an entirely different way. They don't have thick, rigid skins; they remain supple and free. They compensate for the outside pressure through equal and opposite pressure inside themselves. Christians, likewise, don't have to be hard and thick-skinned-as long as they appropriate God's power within to equal the pressure without.
In handling stress in our lives, God has given us a source of sustaining strength. As we face the relentless squeeze of life's challenges and responsibilities we can be comforted with the promise, "We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed!" This was written to Christians who were under tremendous pressure from their traditional religious system, their society and from even their brothers to abandon their faith in Christ. The stress was intense and they must have felt as though they could cave in at any time. But... they had an inner life that held strong. "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." The writer here must have keenly felt his vulnerability compared to the circumstances he was facing.
And, what was this treasure residing in a vessel of frail earth? What they know... what they've experienced of God... the light He has shed in their heart of His glory, of His character, of Jesus Christ and of the scriptures... these can also be your core strength. Frances Bacon said, "Knowledge is power." The biggest mistake we can make is to forsake what we know in our hearts - because of circumstances, because of disappointment, because of living in this fallen world - when it's been put there to keep us from being crushed.
I'm not talking about a false strength of hardening our hearts and putting up barricades, trying to protect the fragility we feel. This is a genuine strength that is forged in the fires of the trial of our faith, where God's integrity emerges victorious. When handling stress by God's grace, nothing is more powerful than a personal experience of the reality of God's faithfulness!
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