Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pressure Cookers

                I wear many hats. Not only do I write this blog, write a bible study for the ladies in my group, but I am also a mother, wife, sister, and owner of a pet care company. Each and every day I have something else on my plate that takes my attention and grabs me away from what I have planned on my calendar, to something completely out of the blue. One of my sisters in the Lord (whom I love with all my heart) tells me that my life is a life of chaos, and she is right- it is. Owning a pet care company twists and turns me in many different ways. One day I may only have two scheduled visits and my day looks like it will be relatively easy- giving me time to get some much needed housework done, or caught up on my writing. But then, within a few minutes, five pet owners can call and my schedule has just gone from relaxed to booked and busy. Not to mention those last minute calls asking for overnight care. Chaos seems to be the best word to describe my life.
               One of the things that the Lord has been showing me is that He is preparing me to step into a path that He has prepared for me. He has been showing me glimpses of this path, and has been strengthening, confirming, and encouraging me through His word. I was complaining to my sister in the Lord about how overwhelmed I get sometimes. It seems like I have everything in order and then something comes up. It just pops right into my day and I have to rearrange everything to make it happen. I never seem to have a quiet day of normalcy. (I crave normalcy sometimes!)  I get overwhelmed and I find myself getting frustrated. I told her that if the Lord is preparing me for something, then it too is going to be chaotic! But, I am encouraged by the Lord, and I pray you are too, that whatever trials and tribulations we go through each day; they are for a purpose, an eternal purpose that will, in the end, bring glory to Him.
                “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope. Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Romans 5:3-5
                Tribulations are defined as those things in our life which cause us to feel under pressure. They are those things that come into our lives that cause us stress, distress, oppression and affliction. They can be little things, or they can be big things. But they always come with a purpose and a reason attached. I always thought that tribulations and trials were the same thing, and the words were used interchangeably. But, after some study and research on these two words, I found that many times they are different and have different purposes.
                Tribulations are God’s way of separating us from things in our life that are a product of self. Trials are the storms and the battles we walk through with the Lord to strengthen our faith, to cause us to rely fully on the Lord. Tribulations are the refining fire the Lord uses to separate the dross in our lives from the gold He wants to produce. (Isaiah 48:10) Tribulations are what God uses to shape us and mold us. And yes, we can have tribulations in the midst of our trials. (I know this from personal experience!)
                Most of us have used a pressure cooker before. You put into the cooker the ingredients you want to cook; you put the necessary liquids into the pot, put the lid on, tighten the knob down and turn up the heat.  The purpose of the pressure cooker is to cook your item in a short amount of time, retaining all the flavor and goodness. You put in the tough meat that usually takes hours to cook, to break down all the cartilage and muscle so that it comes out tender. Tribulations are the pressure cooker the Lord puts us into. Then, he turns up the heat in our lives. The Lord, when He desires to shape us and mold us will use tribulations to produce in us the tender flavors and sweet smelling aromas that He desires.
                Tribulations, are not meant to overwhelm us, or to frustrate us, they are meant to shape us, to mold us, to make us tender and pliable in His hands. The overwhelming comes because I have taken my eyes off of Him and focused on the cooker I am in. Through the chaos in my life He is turning up the heat, allowing the pressure to get into the very muscles of my being, and using this time to prepare me for
something greater that He has planned for me. Me, being the “me” that I am, I tend to focus on the circumstance instead of my God that is in complete control of these same circumstances. When I take my eyes off the One who controls the heat, and focus on the heat only, I become overwhelmed and frustrated, wanting to give up and get off the heat as quickly as I can! But the Lord is showing me that everything I face each and every day is for His purpose, for His reasons and for His glory. He put me in this cooker for a reason, I just have to stay focused on Him- no matter how hot it gets!
                You don’t open the lid of a pressure cooker to check and see how it’s cooking, because it will destroy any hope of a good result. Just as He is not going to take your lid off and show you how you are cooking either. You will see the end result, eventually- just be patient. That is the point, I believe, that Paul is trying to make in Romans 5:3-5. There is a reason why you are in this pressure cooker. There is a reason why you are experiencing these pressures of life. God has you in His cooker but do not lose hope- He has his hand on the controls!
   All that we suffer, all that we go through in this life are for His purposes. Sometimes these purposes are beyond our imagination or understanding. But, if He showed us exactly what it was He was going to do, and what we would have to go through to reach it, would we get into the pot? Probably not! The Lord God desires to shape us and mold us. He wants to create us into someone new. The old He wants to melt away, He wants to break down all the hardness of our hearts and make us tender and pliable in His hands, producing in us the flavors and sweet smelling aromas of Christ. The Lord God loves us too much to leave us the way we are. He desires to transform us, to mold us into the design He has in mind for our lives. His recipe for your life was determined before the foundations of the world, so we can trust He knows how much heat we can handle. Tribulations are meant to change us. Trials are given to break us so that we can withstand the fires of tribulations. Tribulations transform, trials test- but each are given to bring us to a place where He is glorified.
                My days of chaos are for a purpose and a reason. Nothing happens to us by chance, and nothing that happens is a coincidence. He is preparing you, He is producing in you perseverance to stand in the next trial that is coming your way.  He is molding your character, and showing you the hope that you have been given in Him. We have to learn to take our eyes off the pot we are in and put our eyes back onto the One who put us in this pot in the first place.  “While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18) Tribulations are meant to grow me, mold me and refine me.  Instead of looking at the tribulation itself, I need to focus on Him and trust that He is working out a greater glory in me.

                I pray for us today. I pray that you and I would see that the pressures of this life are to produce in us a greater glory. Trials and tribulations will come. There will be big ones, and there will be those little day to day chaos's of life. But they are all for a purpose and a reason, to prepare us for something greater. I pray today that we would take our eyes of the pots and the heat, and focus our attention on the One who controls the heat. In Jesus Name, Amen and Amen.