If we’re facing pressures, we are in the company of the finest women and men of faith ever. And in the company of all humanity.
When we say, “I’m impressed,” we generally mean that something has aroused admiration in us. The literal meaning of impressed, though, is “pressed into”, to be stamped or imprinted.
The same root appears in another familiar word. If we are “depressed” we mean something closer to the original: “pressed down”.
Being impressed and being depressed are quite different effects, but they both result from being under pressure. The results differ due to what’s exerting the pressure, and also the characteristics of what’s being pressed. Paper or wax take an impression, but a grape is just squashed.
It’s quite a challenge for us to take trials with joy.
Your mind may have already gone to Hebrews 1:3 or Colossians 1:15, both of which speak of Jesus bearing the imprint of God. Did he experience pressure? Silly question—he was under pressures we can only imagine, if indeed we can even imagine. The result in him was that the character of God Himself was imprinted, pressed into, the Son.
Possibly you’ve also thought about the apostle Paul, who describes the shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonments, and hardships of all kinds, concluding, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:28) He seems to be saying that those incredible hardships, those pressures from outside, are matched by pressure coming from within himself—because of his great love for those in the churches, and his sense of responsibility for them all.
Jesus and Paul, in fact all the prophets and apostles, faced tremendous pressures. Were they depressed, or impressed by them? In the writings of the prophets particularly, we see there were times the pressures got to them. They wanted to quit. They sometimes despaired. And if we read the Psalms as prophetic expressions of the mind of Messiah, we can see that sometimes things got pretty tough for Jesus to handle, too.
I guess my point is that, if we’re facing pressures, we are in the company of the finest women and men of faith ever. And in the company of all humanity. As Peter puts it, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
It’s to be expected! It’s nothing strange! And having absorbed that thought, note how he continues: “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (verse 13) The effect of the sufferings Jesus went through, was that the very glory of God was impressed into him—and Peter says that’s what happens with us too!
Pressures—inevitable. Whether we’re impressed or just squashed—we have some say in that. How else could we possibly “rejoice in our sufferings”? (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4) Paul and Peter and James are trying to tell us: we have to allow the imprint to occur, and when we do, we grow. Specifically, we grow more like Jesus.
(Please believe I do not make light of depression as an illness. Even here, successful therapies include turning the mind away from dysfunctional, maladaptive thought patterns, into better channels. Believers have a huge help here, in the examples and the teachings of the people we encounter in scripture, who had tremendous pressures, but from them took an imprint and found a way through.)
If it seems like we are under a lot of pressure, then we’re seeing things accurately! We put pressures on ourselves, sometimes for good purposes and sometimes not. The world certainly puts us under its pressures. And the Lord God and His Son also press us—they want very much for us to take the imprint of their character.
It’s quite a challenge for us to take trials with joy. Doesn’t even seem to make sense, at least not to the natural mind. But Jesus, Peter, Paul, James and the prophets who came before them overturned the natural mind, and were able to see the pressures right side up. It’s like going to physical therapy—the therapist applies pressure. It hurts, but we go back because we know it’s a “good hurt”, it is helping toward healing.
I’m not sure I’m going to be real successful attempting to view pressures as positives, forces that can imprint something good into me. That’s what I’m called to, though—to be material that can take an impression, instead of being pressed down.