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The power of pressure

Fr Alvan Ibeh takes a look at the power of pressure in his latest Voice of Hope column.

Someone seeing the headline of this column might wonder if I am sure what I am up to. This is because, as human beings, pressure is not one of those things we like to have in our lives.

No one goes to God in prayer and asks God to give them pressure in their lives. All of us will want to live stress and pressure-free lives. I also don’t think God will want to see us always passing through stress or being pressured up and down. Did you notice that I laid emphasis on the “Always”? This means that pressure and stress are not always needed in our lives. You can imagine what it would be like if we were always under pressure every day of our lives. That would be awful and not a life worth living. But one thing is still certain, at one point or the other in our lives, we must have pressure, the power of pressure must be exerted.

St Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, wrote, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” There is no doubt that our life as believers is summarized in these four statements. They are always true, even though we may have varied experiences of them.

We may not always be pressured, but we often are. We’re not always perplexed, but it happens more than we think. We do not always face opposition, but sometimes we do. We may not be struck down every day by the circumstances of life, but it does happen to all of us eventually.

No one is exempt from these things, even if you are the greatest prayer warrior on earth. No amount of prayer and fasting can avert this basic fact about every human being on earth. They don’t come to us because we are righteous or sinners, it is because we are all humans, living in an imperfect world. Jesus had his own share while He was with us in the flesh, as you can imagine.

One will still ask at this point, “If God truly loves us, is it fair then that He should allow us to be pressured at all, even though Jesus experienced pressure Himself? Since He died for us, shouldn’t He have carried away anything that will pressurize us in this life?”

The truth is that God loves us just as we are. He accepts us just as we are. But “He can’t use us just as we are”. You are precious in His sight and that is why He allows certain things to come to you in order to keep you spiritually awake to all things. If there is no pressure in our lives, there is the tendency for us to remain in spiritual inertia. For God to use us, He must press us, He must squeeze us – but He does not crush or allow us to be crushed by the circumstances He has allowed. 

God presses you because there is something He sees in you. Feeling pressure means you are doing something that matters, so you must not stop, just keep pressing forward. “God changes caterpillars into butterflies, sand into pearls and coal into diamonds using time and pressure. He is working on you too.”

God sometimes uses pressures from circumstances in our lives to bring out the best in us. Until olive seed is pressed, the oil can never come out. Until crude oil is refined, it will remain crude and may not be of any use. Until that precious stone is refined under hot temperature, that diamond or gold will not appear.

Until you are pressed, that value you carry may not be noticed by your generation. “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2)