"We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself ... But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead." 2 Corinthians 1:8b, 9b (NIV)
It seemed pressure came from every direction. It was unrelenting. Financial pressures brought worry. Children issues brought frustration. And an overloaded schedule kept me up at night. It got so bad I wanted to have a bonfire with all my to-do lists and make s'mores.
Being a naturally self-sufficient person, my instincts led me to work harder. How could I make more money? What new parenting technique would make this child behave? If I pulled an all-nighter could I knock my emails down to a manageable number?
I picked up the pace. Buckled down. Slept less. Instituted logical consequences for my child. And re-wrote my to-do lists. I was determined to pull myself together. After all, that's who I am ... at least that's who I was.
In the past, my Lone Ranger attempts at managing circumstances worked. But not this time.
Debts mounted. My child's problems increased. And consequently, I fell further behind. The pressure just kept increasing instead of going away.
Never in my life had circumstances been so overwhelmingly beyond my control. I was surrounded by things I couldn't whip into shape, including my own emotions. I felt like such a failure, and was so ashamed that I couldn't manage the assignments God had given me. Finally, with no solutions in sight, I broke down before God, crying out in desperation, certain He'd be as disappointed with me as I was.
After all, I was the girl He was supposed to be able to count on. I was the dependable one. And here I was falling apart.
With my emotions a tangled mess, I poured out all my fears, weakness, and insecurities to God. Even my prayers seemed jumbled and incoherent. And in the midst of my tears, I declared "I can't even pray right!" Never had I needed God more. Well, to be honest, never had I really needed God.
In the aftermath of my breakdown, something started to change in me. It was subtle, kind of like the dawn, when pitch black moments start to take shape.
My self-sufficiency was slipping, being replaced by God-dependency. Peace snuck in where I didn't expect it. Circumstances didn't change, but my understanding did. God never needed to depend on me ... rather I was to depend on Him.
Although I'd been a Christian for many years, and loved and followed God with what I thought was all my heart, it seemed I'd held something back. In the midst of that pressure-cooker time, I realized believing in God isn't the same as trusting Him. God used pressure that felt crushing to lead me to dependence that felt freeing.
Recently I read a passage in 1 Corinthians that perfectly summarized what God taught me during that time: "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself ... But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us" (vv. 8b, 9b-10)
Pressure in life is never easy. But God can use it to take our faith deeper if we let Him. It started for me by admitting my insufficiency, and realizing God wasn't disappointed by that confession. In fact, He invites me to need Him.
Heavenly Father, please forgive me for all the times I've said "I don't need You" through my actions. I admit I can't manage my life alone, and need Your help. Thank You for being all-sufficient and all-powerful and loving me enough to never shame me for what I can't manage. I love You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.