Have you ever been in a season of life when it feels like you are continually under pressure, the stresses of life literally piling up from seemingly all areas? As time has gone by these last few months, I’ve increasingly had the image of being in one of those pressure cookers building up pressure until it is about to burst. Thankfully, in our modern day, God-sends like the Instant Pot (all the praise hands for this miraculous device) don’t really have the issue of exploding anymore as the pressure cookers of yesteryear did, but in this image I keep having, I keep seeing that the pot can only handle so much pressure. The pressure valve is right there, ready to release and bring that pot down from that high pressure point, but it’s a choice to let the pressure out in that safe, desired way, before the pressure literally blows the lid off.
You know when you’re going through something that you know you are meant to, but that there is a very certain way to walk this road in a healthy way? God has reminded me again and again of some truths during this season that are essential to living this time in such a way that doesn’t end with a pressure cooker explosion.
Rick Renner’s interpretive version of 2 Thessalonians 1:7, formed from the Greek meanings of the original words in this letter, found in Sparkling Gems from the Greek, sets us up well to dive into this:
“To you who are going through difficulties right now, it’s time for you to let up, take a breather, and relax. We know what it’s like to be under pressure, but no one can stay under that kind of stress continuously. So join us in learning how to loosen up a bit. Shake off your troubles, and allow yourself a little relaxation and time for recreation…”
I found it fascinating that God lead me to Renner’s in-depth study of this verse that just happened to talk about being under pressure. Life has a way, especially in some seasons, to pile it on, and we have the responsibility of learning how to use that pressure release valve through healthy habits of recreation and relaxation.
Taking a Sabbath is a very important part of creating a habit of rest in our lives, but this verse goes beyond that to highlight the need for relaxation and recreation, which is distinctly different than the time of dedicated rest and refueling in the Lord we should take each week.
In my life, learning how to relax has looked like creating time to read again this year. I’ve hardly read these past few years, yet I once read over 100 books in a year as a teenager. Being goal-oriented, I set a goal of reading 12 books this year at the start of this year, but as I’ve walked it out I’ve recognized the most healthy way to truly relax through reading is to just structure in time to read and reflect, and not to worry about how I’m doing on schedule with reaching that goal in time (also, Audible. It’s a Godsend!).
Recreation…it’s something that takes a little more intentionality to uncover, but I think that’s on purpose. God created us to enjoy the things we do, and He enjoys seeing us having fun. When I lived overseas, I learned that there are certain things in life that different people enjoy that heavily enhance one’s ability to endure things. For some people living in third or fourth world countries that call first world countries home base, it’s hot showers. For others, it’s an occasional treat that reminds them of home (cheese, anyone?). There were little things that I and the others around me could give ourselves to enrich our enjoyment of the season we were in, something that had a huge impact in heavily decreasing burnout and enabling me and others I knew to choose simple pleasures and habits that were refueling in their own small but extremely impactful ways. There is something I learned in that time of life that is so important- God created each of us with our own set of likes, dislikes, and fuel for our tanks and fueling that tank isn’t just a good idea, but actually necessary for long-term health. I discovered that walks along the ocean did a tremendous amount for stress relief, and that’s translated to me recognizing how much parks and lakes can be pressure relieving here in the land-locked state where I now live. Learning about the fuel God gave you, those specific things that are refueling for you, is a great joy in itself and in it you discover an aspect of God’s character, because you’re made in His image and those things are a part of who He is.
It’s time to release the pressure valves. We weren’t made to live with the pressure building all the time. Yet I love that 2 Thessalonians 1:7 is specifically recognizing that there are times of high pressure that will come, as well as healthy ways to handle these times.
What about you – what are some ways you need to practice relaxing and taking time for recreation? What are some new things you can explore in your life to enrich the season you find yourself in and circumvent a pressure explosion?
Take some time to journal your thoughts today. Ask the Lord what things you need to incorporate into your life to create a natural pressure release in order to not just avoid a pressure explosion, but to build healthy pressure-relieving habits and activities into your life.