Grace Under Pressure

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“Learn to… be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not.”

 – Henri Frederic Amiel –

Sometimes everyone needs you to be everything, and the to-do list is dragging on the floor. Expectations are rising, and the chances of you having enough energy to meet them are dwindling every moment.

These are the moments when it feels like my hair is standing on end, my nerves are strung out to their utmost length, and my spirit is about to crack at any moment.

In the last week, one of the jobs I had to do loomed over me like a flash flood. I was nearly incapacitated in the face of it. I didn’t know what to do, what to say. I didn’t even know where I would find the right words, or enough strength to open my mouth. My sickness of heart was so great that I didn’t really know what emotion dominated the mix of feelings. Anger, dread, fear, helplessness, uncertainty, the desire to overcome, a protective instinct–all of these swelled inside me and warred among themselves. I sat at my piano and played soft, melodic chords, trying to still my raging soul. All I could do was pray.

And I wasn’t particularly eloquent.

“Lord, help me.”

It was the prayer that I breathed again and again, because He had to come through. I was too unraveled. He would have to come up under me if I was going to make it.

And He did.

Honestly, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, to keep moving toward the moment when I would have to confront the job that defied every emotion in me. I wanted to run away. I wanted to say I couldn’t do it. I wanted to hide from the uncertainty and pretend it didn’t exist.

But I moved forward, even though I was nearly incapacitated.

And that, my friend, is where He met me. 

Yes, He came to me when I silently cried for help. But His power rained down grace in the moments I needed it most. My anger slipped away, and I was able to deal with my task with a clear mind and a loving heart. The words came in the moments I needed them, words that I hadn’t even imagined speaking–just the right words.

These situations are becoming more common in my life as I face unprecedented struggles and emotions. Wonderfully, His grace is shining all the clearer in the face of new circumstances and unexplored chapters.

In the middle of all this, I am learning about myself. As I drove home from the grocery store recently, I found myself getting worked up over all the tasks that I still had to complete in the day. Then I smiled to myself.

“You have all the time necessary to do what God wants you to do today,” I told myself.

What a comforting thought!

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I push myself to do certain things, to complete them in a certain way, to meet self-determined deadlines. I can drive my heart ahead of me in fear, whipping it in line with reminders of expectations and reminders of what other people are capable of.  And I forget to breathe.

But all my hours are enough.

They are enough for uplifting moments, the responsibilities that cannot be postponed, and the unexpected storms. My hours are enough to care for all the hearts that I love, at least as much as I’m meant to love them in one day.

I suppose I’m slowly accepting the fact that I am not superhuman. I can agonize over what isn’t getting done…but why? If I am doing my best, if I am loving as well as I can, if I am not neglecting the main priorities of my life, why can’t I let up on myself?

Is it possible that I expect more of myself than God created me to be?

Do I expect to satisfy the people in my life, when only Jesus can do that? Do I expect to solve all the problems, when I am not equipped with omnipotence or omnipresence? Do I expect a broken world to function perfectly if I can only push hard enough?

Please understand, I do not mean neglecting responsibilities, casting off priorities, or embracing laziness.

I mean that our anxiety and 90-mile-an-hour pace are not making us more like Jesus. Frantic scurrying does not help those around us. When our spirits or our bodies break down under the strain, we are not doing anyone any good.

There is a woman who joyfully and calmly embraces each moment as a gift from God, knowing that He gives perfect gifts. She is not perfect, but she knows that God has a plan even in her fight against sin. When she faces the day, the number of tasks overwhelms her less and less, because she is learning that God will give her every moment she needs. If she doesn’t have enough moments to do necessary things, maybe some unnecessary things need to be moved out of the way.

She realizes that life comes in seasons, and all things do not fit in all seasons. There may be a season for “survival mode” in house cleaning, while she engages in recreation so she can be a better daughter, sister, student, mom, friend, or wife. There may be a season when an “extra” activity like a restful or energizing hobby may be very necessary, and something usually considered necessary should be scaled back. This woman is balanced, recognizing what things are Biblical priorities (taking care of herself mentally, physically and spiritually, nurturing her family, keeping reasonable order) and what things are self-created pressures that really have little Biblical basis or balance.

God gives me enough strength and time for everything necessary today. He never makes it impossible to obey Him.

That is very freeing.

So when I wake up and the to-do list items begins to single-file through my mind, I don’t have to panic. I can use wisdom to “thin down the ranks” to the most vital responsibilities. After that, I can choose what other things would be nice to accomplish. I don’t have to drive myself until I collapse. I don’t have to get frustrated over “running out of day.” I don’t have to put in a prayer request for the Lord to add 10 extra hours to a day.

If you are a daughter of God, you are already accepted in the perfectly-finished work of Jesus. Today is a gift of grace, to be lived in grace.

Do your priorities today reflect this grace?


“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.”

– Romans 15:13, PHILLIPS –

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