If you fail, you aren’t a failure. A lot of people don’t realize that. Our choices don’t define us and neither do our outcomes. When we are under pressure it does reveal our true character. Because pride keeps us blinded to our own shortcomings God allows pressure in our lives to create moments of clarity, opening our eyes to the reality of our hearts. Testing exposes our weakness. What un-Christlike attributes boil over when the heat is turned up? That’s where we still need to grow.
Like an old house that is pressure washed, what is often revealed is decay underneath. This proverb tells us that we fail under pressure when our strength is too small. There is nothing in this life that we were designed to do alone. First and foremost, we have our Heavenly Father who is the source of all strength and all life. His Spirit empowers us. But, He also recognized that it wasn’t good for us to be alone on this journey, so He gave us other people. A community. When a low-pressure storm front moves in, we need the strength of His Spirit and other Christ-followers to get through without failing.
I have lived in Florida for over 20 years, but I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, outside of Seattle. A place where trees and forests are the scenery no matter which way you turn your head. Florida is different. Palm trees are different. They are beautiful in their own way, but they generally live apart from each other – they practice social distancing. In fact, experts recommend planting some types of palms trees at least 20 feet apart! Compared to where I’m from, palm trees also have very shallow root systems. Generally, their roots only grow in the upper 36 inches of topsoil where water and nutrients are plentiful.
Satan wants us to be palm trees – pretty, tall, decorative – and isolated with shallow roots. This keeps us weak in the storms of life.
During my time in Florida my family has gone through three major hurricanes that impacted the area where we lived. Do you know what I have learned? No matter how tall or impressive a palm tree is, a 3-foot deep root system doesn’t do much when hurricane force winds come through. Some fall. Some stand. Some fall and take others with them. God has a different idea for us though… an opportunity to be victorious under pressure.
Have you ever had the opportunity to lay on your back in a forest… looking up at a canopy of trees, branches so intertwined it’s like a maze trying to figure out which branch belongs to which tree? There is beauty in the chaos as sun shines through the breaks in the leaves, and yet there is also protection from the rain when the storm blows through. It’s not perfect protection, but the kind that keeps the wind at bay and breaks the heaviness of the drops as they fall. What’s amazing is that if you could see underground, you’d see much the same in their root structure. Not only deeper, but wider. It can be nearly impossible to tell which root goes to which tree, like a collection of hopelessly tangled necklaces.
Of course, we don’t get hurricanes in Seattle. However, we do get horrible wind and ice storms and trees do fall. One of the craziest sights is walking through the woods and seeing a fallen tree that isn’t on the ground. The trees around it broke the fall and the interwoven roots allowed the tree to remain planted. Yes, you are picturing it clearly; there are fallen trees still alive and growing, supported by the trees around them! I believe this is God’s purpose in community.
The power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and allowing the strength of others to support us are key strategies that keep us from failing under pressure as we walk out our faith.
- The last time you were under pressure what boiled over? What areas is God exposing in order to help you grow more into the image of Christ?
- Make a list of the trees (people) around you (even if they’re 20 feet away!) and consider their strength. Do they have strong root systems grounded in faith? Are they led by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit? Consider if you may need to replant yourself into a healthier area?
- When you are under pressure — stress at work, struggling relationship, overwhelming busyness — where does your strength come from? Do you see more victory or more failure when life is hard? What change might God be asking you to make?