The Pressures of Life
The hot, oppressive weather was relentless… day and night… no relief. It was the summer of 1980, and the Tennessee humidity only added to the misery we were all feeling. States to the west of us had endured the heat for three months. We were thankful our agony had only lasted a few weeks. But everyone was spent. The sultry temperatures pressed down on us. We bent under the unbearable load.
And then the leaves began to stir… and we turned our faces to the welcome, cool breeze. The winds of change had finally come.
There were winds in the Bible that were welcomed: The winds that dried the land after the Great Flood (Gen. 8:1); the wind that carried away the locusts after the plague (Ex. 10:19); the winds that created the dry path for the Israelites to escape from Pharaoh (Ex. 14:21) and brought them quail to eat during their wanderings (Num. 11:31). There were even the winds from the four corners of the earth that breathed life into dry bones (Ez. 37:9).
However, more often winds brought disaster and destruction. The south winds were sweltering hot and dry (Job 37:17). The east winds laid waste the crops (Ez. 17:10, 27:26) and destroyed ships (Ps. 48:7). And winds could also bring about total annihilation (Ps. 103:16).
Those of us who live in Southern California dread another kind of wind… the Santa Ana winds. These dry and often hot fierce gales come from the desert areas to the east and suck all the moisture from vegetation. One careless spark or, worse yet, arsonist’s flame, can destroy hillsides of brush, forests, homes and other structures. Mass evacuations are not uncommon, and those of us who view the dancing flames on the horizon, hold our breath and pray for the winds to calm.
I prefer the trade winds, those steady breezes that blow across tropical islands and mitigate the heat of those climates. They were the reliable power source for sailing ships that crossed vast stretches of ocean.
No matter what kind they are, winds are all created in the same way. They are simply movement of the air from areas of high pressure to lower pressure. If you look at a map that illustrates air pressure, you will see lines or isobars connecting the points that have the same pressure reading. When these isobars are far apart, the winds are gentle. However when they are tightly compressed, one almost on top of another, you know the winds are really howling.
The isobars of pressure in our lives can create gale winds that threaten to blow us away. Oh we seem to be able to handle those occasional forces that bear down on us. But the faster those problems come at us, relentless in their pursuit, the stronger the stress we have to endure.
PEOPLE LOOK TO WISE LEADERS
It is vital that leaders not allow the weight of problems in a company or organization or those between staff or family members to build up. The stress people are feeling will gain momentum and press together until there is sure to be a violent release of built-up pressure. Without timely intervention, small issues crowd one on top of the other.
Wise leaders create an atmosphere more like the trade winds, the constant gentle breeze that keeps the heat of pressures from accumulating. They don’t allow problems to compound into a destructive gale force. These are the fair-minded, upright leaders Isaiah speaks about at the beginning of Chapter 32: “Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.”
I know I’d much rather be that “breath of fresh air” – someone whose presence or comment can positively change the atmosphere of a room, the tenor of a discussion. Instead of arriving on scene with a load of criticisms… those compressed, stress-producing isobars… I can be a welcome breeze that turns everything around or sets things in the right direction. That’s the kind of leader I strive to be. That’s the kind of leader I enjoy following.
HANDLING OUR PRESSURE
But as leaders we can’t completely avoid the pressures that “come with the job” of being in charge. When we are under the most pressure, that’s when the wind blows the strongest. Sometimes it feels like a gale force that will knock us off our feet. We can choose to turn into the wind and battle for all we’re worth (Prov. 22:3). And unfortunately there are those who constantly bear up under pressure until they break down physically in their health, or lash out emotionally, or succumb to depression.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Leaders who desire to mitigate their internal pressures seek counsel from others and from the Lord. And when people see how their boss or parent or spouse wisely handles stress, intuitively they will not overreact to their own pressures. They will learn to also take them in stride, and not allow them to build out of proportion.
GIVE IT OVER TO THE LORD JESUS!
There are times though when I am unable to keep my pressures in perspective, when they do threaten to drive me downward under an unbearable load. Then it’s comforting to know that the Lord understands my condition, my needs, and is there to take me into His sheltered cove, away from the storms of life. He’s there with His comforting, cool breath of air to give me relief from the heat of my responsibilities. He urges me to take time to renew, review, and listen to the wise counsel from His Word and from the Jesus-connected people He sends me (Ps. 46:1, 57:1, 62:8).
Ultimately, I look to that day when the Lord’s angels will gather me and all His children “from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Mat. 24:31). That will be the most welcome breeze, the one bringing everlasting relief. What a glorious day that will be… the end of pressures… and the beginning of endless joy.
Leaving my guilt at the cross,
(First published at Lead Like Jesus June 2017)