Pressure: The exertion of force upon a surface by something in contact with it.
I had never really stopped to consider this definition, but I saw something this morning which I really did not realize. Look at the definition again - pressure is the exertion of a "force" upon nothing more than the "surface". When we use the term, "I am under a lot of pressure right now", we are simply saying, "There are a whole lot of EXTERNAL influences in CONTACT with my life right now". Something, or someone, comes into CONTACT with our lives - but they are not "invading" our inner life - their contact is on the surface! This may not earth-shattering to some, but I think if we really begin to latch onto this, we may just see how much control we have over what actually can affect us on the "inside".
If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small. (Proverbs 24:10 NLT)
First of all, what we allow into "contact" with our lives will exert some kind of force. Even air exerts some kind of "force" upon that which it surrounds! So, we cannot escape the fact that things bring "pressure" of some kind - we just don't escape pressure! Try as we might, there is no way to live "pressure-free". The important thing to keep in focus is not that we will experience pressure, but how this "force" will impact that which it comes into contact with.
Second, the "force" something exerts is only on the surface - making what we have on the interior most important. If the right stuff is on the inside, the surface may take a little beating, but the force will not be able to breakdown the stuff on the inside. The "force" may put something "under pressure" beyond what the surface normally withstands, but if the interior is filled with the right stuff, the "resistance" to the pressure is great.
Third, we sometimes see pressure bringing out the best. A candy with an outer candy coating like an M&M is designed for the pressure on the outside to breakdown the surface - allowing what is on the inside to be enjoyed. The candy coating is colorful, it makes it easier to keep our hands clean while enjoying a chocolate delight, and it makes the chocolate a little more portable. The surface has a purpose, but it is not to "resist" force! In the same way, we might find pressure exposing the best in us - simply because the best stuff is really exposed by the force. If the right stuff is on the inside, even force won't be able to change that!
Going back to our passage, Solomon aptly reminds us that our "strength" is revealed under pressure. Remember that strength is not just the ability to resist something on the surface, but to expose what is on the inside - it becomes evident that what God plans for us to reveal is his strength, not our own. Whenever we think external forces have to be dealt with in our own strength, we are facing "pressure" with a resistance which in incapable of enduring the force.
A "force" is any strength, power, or energy which is exerted upon the surface of something. I can "force" you to sit down, but if your spirit is really seeing yourself as standing up, have you really been seated? Not really - you have just given into the force, but everything in you remains rigidly resistive to the "force". Resistance is really application of an opposite strength. When life comes at us, demanding us to "sit down", God's strength gives us the strength to oppose the demand. The force exerted met an opposite strength it could not match!
I wonder how much we might view pressure differently if we saw it as a means of exposing the opposite strength? Not the opposite strength we can muster from our own reasoning or tactical expertise, but the inner strength of being in the hands of God. When the opposite strength meets the external force, the source of the strength becomes evident. If it is our own "mustered" strength, it will soon yield to the force! Just sayin!