“No pressure, no diamonds.”

– Thomas Carlyle

When we were little, most of us had dreams of how we wanted our lives to go. Maybe you hoped your life would be like a fairy tale – complete with a storybook ending, a prince who comes to the rescue, a castle, and a magic wand to effortlessly remove any pain or disappointment.

But the reality is that life is not a fairy tale. Our lives are full of ups and downs, disappointments and achievements, and each of these bring pressure along with them. How we handle these moments determines whether we will thrive or quit just short of our destiny.

Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing.
James 1:2-4

Life is never without some form of pressure. How we handle pressure defines us and influences our future. We can either run from pressure, or embrace it and allow God to work through it to shape us into who were were meant to be.

“If you’re not prepared, it’s not pressure you feel, it’s fear.”

– Bruce Boche, Manager, SF Giants

Pressure often comes from fear. When I face the unexpected, or anything I am unprepared for, my initial reactions are usually to want to run away in fear, quit, or resent the situation. My fear of pain or disappointment creates a pressure I’d rather ignore or blame on someone or something else.

These moments are turning points where we can either cower in unbelief or turn to God to develop the internal strength to overcome our fears. When we turn to God, we allow the pressure to turn us in to a diamond.

4 I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. 6 In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles.

Psalm 34:4-6 NLT

Ask yourself, what fears might be at the root of the pressure you’re experiencing? What fears do you ignore rather than allow to propel you toward God?

These are some common fears that I find are at the root of pressure we experience:

1. Fear of being alone
2. Fear of powerlessness in the face of chronic health challenges
3. Fear of rejection due to personal failures or shortcomings
4. Fear of being vulnerable in relationships
5. Fear of sudden disaster

We can choose to respond to each of these fears by humbling ourselves with God and letting the pressure teach us to become spiritually strong and internally resilient. Turning to the Bible and getting the spiritual understanding to navigate our lives from God’s perspective, rather than our own, is the way we find joy and purpose in the face of stress-inducing pressure.

143 As pressure and stress bear down on me I find joy in your commands. 144 Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live.

Psalm 119:143-144 NLT

Here are 2 decisions we can make to handle pressure in a spiritual way:

1. Stop hardening, start praying

13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
14 Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.

Proverbs 28:13

Many times we would rather harden our heart to our problems than face them. But when we harden our hearts we only create more problems.

What does it looks like when we harden our heart?

For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’

Matthew 13:15

When we really want to feel nothing, it’s the beginning of hardening our hearts. We can’t see, we can’t hear and we can’t understand what God’s purpose is when we choose to harden. Things that we thought we’d never do as a child become the things we are enslaved to, leading to the pressure of guilt and burden of shame. Turning to God by being honest in prayer is the first step to getting our heart soft and re-sensitized.

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.”

– Iain Thomas, American author
My soul quietly waits for the True God alone because I hope only in Him. He alone is my rock and deliverance,my citadel high on a hill;I will not be shaken. My salvation and my significance depend ultimately on God;the core of my strength, my shelter, is in the True God. Have faith in Him in all circumstances, dear people.Open up your heart to Him;the True God shelters us in His arms.

Psalm 62:5-8 Voice

When we open up our heart in prayer by being completely honest and transparent, God will give us strength to move forward. He will heal our pain and give us courage to take risks again.

Pray to the Lord, and he will hear you. He will save you from all your troubles. 18 The Lord is close to those who have suffered disappointment. He saves those who are discouraged.

Psalm 34:17 (ERV)

God wants us to turn our heart to him in prayer and live life with a soft heart instead of hard heart. God wants to be close to us! God wants us to be honest with him about how we feel, what we think, what we’re afraid of, what we desire, and what we feel guilty about.

He wants to know everything about us. He wants not religious but vulnerable prayers in which we are emotionally honest and transparent with all our thoughts. When we turn to God in this way, we can let go of our past guilt and fears and become free to pursue our destiny and our purpose.

2. Stop blaming, start building…on the Bible

Angry people without God pile grievance upon grievance, always blaming others for their troubles. Living it up in sexual excesses, virility wasted, they die young. But those who learn from their suffering, God delivers from their suffering.

Job 36:13 (Message)
A man’s own folly ruins his life,yet his heart rages against the LORD.

Proverbs 19:3

When pressure comes our first reaction is often to blame someone else instead of taking responsibility. Often the first one we blame is God. I find that I blame others or become bitter because I don’t want to feel pain, face my own weaknesses, or take responsibility for the consequences and impact of my own sins.

But we don’t have to choose bitterness when we experience pain, pressure or disappointment. You can choose to believe the Bible rather than bitterness in response to pain and pressure. The Bible is what leads us to see clearly, to find the strength to take responsibility and the hope to change. Bitterness keeps us trapped in the past and defeated in our relationships.

Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.

Proverbs 14:10

Another dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good.

Job 21:25
21 You see, my heart overflowed with bitterness and cynicism; I felt as if someone stabbed me in the back. 22 But I didn’t know the truth; I have been acting like a stupid animal toward You. 23 But look at this: You are still holding my right hand; You have been all along. 24 Even though I was angry and hard-hearted, You gave me good advice; when it’s all over, You will receive me into Your glory

Psalm 73:21-24 Voice

Bitterness keeps us in the past, fighting lost battles that everyone else has moved forward from. Most likely the person you are bitter toward is enjoying their life while you are trapped by your own cynicism. Choose to submit to the Scriptures rather than being a victim of your own bitterness, and then you’ll begin to see God and his purpose in your life again.

I’ll show what it’s like when someone comes to me, hears my words, and puts them into practice. 48 It’s like a person building a house by digging deep and laying the foundation on bedrock. When the flood came, the rising water smashed against that house, but the water couldn’t shake the house because it was well built.

Luke 6:47-48 CEB

When we start building our life on the Bible, we will be able to forgive, take responsibility, embrace our purpose, and dream again. We will be able to use the lessons we learned in facing pressure and pain in order to dream again.

So how do you handle pain and pressure? Decide to start praying and believing the Bible and before you know it you’ll have diamonds.