(Click to listen to an audio recording of this article: The simple secret that stops stress)
Being young today can be like living in a pressure cooker. Expectations, stress, and demands come from all directions.
The future looms before me, feeling like an ominous cloud on the horizon. Decisions and achievements at high school can quite possibly affect the rest of my life.
On top of that, how do I stand out from the rest of the crowd? How do I get noticed?
Expectations from society – real or perceived – compel us to put a lot of pressure on ourselves.
Expectations vs. reality
I personally was never content with being “mediocre.” The perfectionist in me wanted to be the best at everything I put my hand to, and I found it hard to accept the fact that there were some things I wasn’t good at. This led to disappointment, bitterness, and envy, as I compared myself to others.
Eventually I realized my own high expectations were making me a slave! I was so dissatisfied with what I had been given; it was never enough. It was like climbing a ladder that never ends, and all it really achieved was that I was tired and stressed.
“For we are His workmanship …”
But eventually I woke up to the realization that in the midst of all this striving to please my friends, family, and ultimately myself, I was missing the only important thing. That there is only One that I should be concerned about pleasing. The One who created me – my Lord and Master.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10.
God created me according to His perfect will. This was no random event, but something He thought out and carefully planned. He chose me before the foundation of the world, and gave me the unique personality, talents and abilities that He in His wisdom and mercy knew would be best.
When I am free from my own complexes – inferiority, superiority, etc. – then I learn how to use the gifts and abilities that God has given me to serve Him in the way that He has set out for me. In this way, my eyes are open to use the opportunities I have been given and live before God’s face. In this way I can live in a way that is pleasing to Him, and I become free from striving to be the “perfect” person for all the wrong reasons.
Using what God has given me
When I am faithful to the fullest with what God has given me, I can trust that He has a perfect plan for me, and there is no reason to be discontented or anxious for my future. He takes care of me! I may not be the “world’s greatest” or perfect at everything, but when I undertake each task with all my heart as to the Lord and not to men (Colossians 3:23), with the right attitude and in the right spirit, then it will be blessed. Then I will learn how to do it better and better.
So now, even though my perfectionist nature is still present, I no longer feel like I am living in that “pressure cooker!” I can’t let competitiveness and striving overshadow and restrict the gifts that God has given me, because then I will find myself outside His will. But I can do what He has given me to do simply and faithfully, and be at rest within!
I can be like clay in the Potter’s hand – God can use me and I can be molded into the person He intended me to be.
When I live like this, there is no “pressure!” I can look to the future with hope and confidence.