The Pressure Cooker

Last week I was talking to a friend about how I was feeling, and she said “I feel like you are living in a pressure cooker”. Her words stopped me in my tracks. For weeks, I have been trying to put words to exactly how my heart is feeling. A nonstop headache, a doctor’s report that wasn’t great (My Comforter), stressful days at work, a groundhog living in our backyard that can’t get the memo to leave, a couple kidney stones that led to an unexpected procedure, a sick cat and so many other things have left me feeling spread way too thin. I feel like we can’t catch a break.

Pressure cookers have become a pretty popular kitchen gadget in the world lately. The utensil is used to quick cook or preserve food by applying high-temperature under pressure. I haven’t personally used a pressure cooker, but I hear the food always comes out delicious and tender.

Life lately has felt anything but comfortable. I feel like I am surrounded by emotional and physical pressures that are threatening to crush me. Ever since my friend said she feels like my life is a pressure cooker, I have been thinking of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue and commanded all of the people to bow down and worship it. Not only did he command them to worship a statue, he also made a decree that said whoever did not bow to worship the statue would be thrown into a blazing fire. After the decree was made, some men brought it to the King’s attention that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not bowing before the statue. This made the king furious and he called Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to come before him.

When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were commanded to bow they responded with this extremely faith-filled response in Daniel 3:16-18 in the NASB translation:

 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

The King was so enraged by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego he gave orders to turn up the furnace seven times hotter than it would typically be ran. The King commanded his men to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the fire. The fire was so hot, the men who threw in Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego where killed instantly.

The story doesn’t end there, a few minutes after the boys were thrown into the fire, the King looked at his advisers and asked, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?” Y’all, I feel like it must have taken the advisers everything in them not to respond with sarcasm here, counting to three is not difficult! But when the King and the advisers looked at the fire, there were four men, walking around the fire unharmed and untied. The boys were not alone in the fire, an angel was there with them. 

Then the King realized Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were servants of God. He commanded them to come out of the fire. The boys came out of the fire and the King and his advisers saw first hand that the fire had no effect on them. The bible says not a hair on their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected and they didn’t even smell like fire.

The King was so in awe of this miracle He proclaimed this is Daniel 3:28-29 in the NASB translation:

 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.

An entire Nation was changed because of the big, bold faith three men had. Three men were willing to choose their Father even though it meant being thrown into the biggest pressure cooker in the history of mankind and they walked out not even smelling like smoke.

This probably isn’t the first time you have heard this story. It’s an amazing story of big faith and big miracles, and I never want to belittle that. I just think that we don’t talk nearly enough about the middle. We know an angel was in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but the bible doesn’t tell us what they talked about. I wonder if the angel said “don’t worry, this is almost over” or maybe he told them “don’t be afraid, just rest” or maybe he said “just trust me”. No one really knows, but I can tell you what God has been doing in the middle of my pressure cooker.

I have read Psalm 18 at least 2,000 times. It’s the scripture I go to on the nights I can’t breathe. It’s on my lips like a song. So, today, I wanted to share why I have clung to this scripture so much.

In the Passion Translation, Psalm 18 opens with these words (verses 1-3):

Lord, I passionately love you and I’m bonded to you,
for now you’ve become my power!
You’re as real to me as bedrock beneath my feet,
like a castle on a cliff, my forever firm fortress,
my mountain of hiding, my pathway of escape,
my tower of rescue where none can reach me.
My secret strength and shield around me,
you are salvation’s ray of brightness shining on the hillside,
always the champion of my cause.
All I need to do is to call to you,
singing to you, the praiseworthy God.
When I do, I’m safe and sound in you.

 

I wrote about the importance of God being my fortress before (Confidently Imprisoned), and I love that this verse starts with the simple reminder. He is my strength. He is my hiding place. In Him, I find power and strength. In His heart is where I find relief from the voices, distractions and pressures. I love the simplicity and beauty in this. 

But, before I was in His fortress, something amazing happened. Something amazing IS happening in my current “pressure cooker season”.  Verse 4-6- says this:

For when the ropes of death wrapped around me
and terrifying torrents of destruction overwhelmed me,
taking me to death’s door, to doom’s domain,
I cried out to you in my distress, the delivering God,
and from your temple-throne you heard my troubled cry.
My sobs came right into your heart
and you turned your face to rescue me.

 

Right now,  I can relate to these verses. Life is overwhelming. I literally feel heavy from the season I am walking through. So I have been calling out to the Father and I love what these verses say. First, He hears me. In a season that I sometimes feel unseen and unheard, it’s powerful to know that my Father hears me. But more than just hearing me, my cries are moving His heart and makes Him turn towards me. A compassionate Father doesn’t turn away from His hurting children. The Father doesn’t stop there. Verses 7-10 says this:

The earth itself shivered and shook.
It reeled and rocked before him.
As the mountains trembled, they melted away!
For his anger was kindled, burning on my behalf.
Fierce flames leapt from his mouth,
erupting with blazing, burning coals as smoke
and fire encircled him.
He stretched heaven’s curtain open and came to my defense.
Swiftly he rode to earth as the stormy sky was lowered.
He rode a chariot of thunderclouds amidst thick darkness,
a cherub his steed as he swooped down,
soaring on the wings of Spirit-wind.

He isn’t just looking at me and then moving on. He’s isn’t shushing me or telling me to wait. My tears are making Him move. Not a slow move. He isn’t being careful. He is moving so quickly and so fiercely that He is making the mountains tremble. He is coming for me. He is so angry at the enemy, that fire is coming from His mouth. He is riding the storm – the very storm that has created this pressure cooker and feels like it may swallow me up – to rescue me. Verse 11-13 says this:

Wrapped and hidden in the thick-cloud darkness,
his thunder-tabernacle surrounded him.
He hid himself in mystery-darkness;
the dense rain clouds were his garments.
Suddenly the brilliance of his presence broke through
with lightning bolts and with a mighty storm from heaven—
like a tempest dropping coals of fire.
The Lord thundered, the great God above every god
spoke with his thunder-voice from the skies.
What fearsome hailstones and flashes of fire were before him!

These verses get me every time. I often wonder why sometimes it feels like we don’t “feel” God in the midst of our storms. Why is He is “wrapped and hidden”? I don’t know if I will ever fully understand, but what I do know is when a hero sneaks up on an enemy, the attack is won faster. When an enemy is able to prepare for an impending attack, they sure up their defenses. However, when an enemy doesn’t see an attack coming, when they think they are safe, there is no defense. When the hero suddenly sweeps in, the impact is huge. Friends, this is when it gets good – really good. Verse 14-18 says this:

He released his lightning-arrows, and routed my foes.
See how they ran and scattered in fear!
Then with his mighty roar he laid bare the foundations of the earth,
uncovering the secret source of the sea.
The hidden depths of land and sea were exposed
by the hurricane-blast of his hot breath.
He then reached down from heaven,
all the way from the sky to the sea.
He reached down into my darkness to rescue me!
He took me out of my calamity and chaos
and drew me to himself,
taking me from the depths of my despair!
Even though I was helpless in the hands
of my hateful, strong enemy,
you were good to deliver me.
When I was at my weakest, my enemies attacked—
but the Lord held on to me.

As soon as the Father arrives, He immediately starts fighting my battle and all the enemies run. During that fight, He reaches down and holds me. Honestly, He never let go of me. He has always been holding me and fighting for me, I just don’t always realize it. Psalms 18:1-18 painted this picture: 

  1. I cried out
  2. My Father heard me
  3. After hearing me, He listened and CAME
  4. He battled for me
  5. He held me

But why? Why did He do all these things? Verse 19 tells us:

His love broke open the way
and he brought me into a beautiful broad place.
He rescued me—because his delight is in me!

I get weepy every time I read this part. He didn’t (and doesn’t) roll His eyes and think “Oh goodness, I need to go rescue my daughter again!” or “Oh goodness! She’s so dramatic, let me go save her from that pressure cooker.” No, He rescued me (He continues to rescue me) because He delights in me.  Here’s what I love about all of this. He doesn’t stop there. After fighting all my battles, rescuing me, and holding me, He has more. Verse 20 says this:

He rewarded me for doing what’s right and staying pure.

He is rewarding me, because I continue to choose to do what is right and stay pure. In the midst of this pressure cooker, it would be easy to choose to be ugly and get bitter. It would be easy to compromise. It would be easy to give up. However, after He fights my battles, He rewards me for choosing hope and joy. The choices I make today affect my rewards tomorrow. 

Remember that pressure cooker I described? The food that comes out of the pressure cooker is tender. I don’t believe that God created this “pressure cooker season”. I don’t think He put me here, but I do believe He is using this season to soften my heart. He’s showing me the places in my heart that are still ugly. (Pack Mules Aren’t Cool) and He’s reminding me I have nothing to fear because of who He is. (Fear, You Don’t Own Me). Most of all, He is teaching me that I am never alone.

Isaiah 43:2 says this in the NASB translation:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.

If you are walking through a season that feels like a pressure cooker, first, I see you. I see how hard it is. I feel the overwhelming feeling you are feeling, but today I want to remind you that He promises the heat won’t burn us. While we may come out tenderized, we aren’t broken. I encourage you to look around that pressure cooker, I promise you Jesus is in that fire with you. Also, don’t forget Psalm 18. He hears you. He came for you. He’s battling for you. He is holding you. He does all of that simply because He loves you.

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