I didn’t sleep well so I am writing this in the middle of the night. Oppressive late summer heat has turned our home into an oven. That mixed with unhealthy air quality from the smoke of continued wildfires has strapped the last few days with a subliminal sense of stress and pressure. Do you feel an underlying pressure from your circumstances? Do you feel stressed or anxious about life, work, school, relationships, or the future? That’s understandable, for we live in challenging times. Fortunately, you can experience grace, strength, and hope in abundance.

First-century followers of Jesus also felt pressure and were even persecuted. But it wasn’t due just to external circumstances. It was mainly due to living out their faith. Believers have the glorious blessing and responsibility to share the love and salvation of God with others. When you live for God instead of pleasing yourself and when you shine light in a rebellious world that prefers darkness, you will face difficulty (2 Timothy 3:12; John 3:19-20, 15:18-20; Matthew 10). The apostle Paul recognized this yet he also assured his fellow Christians, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).

Paul uses an insightful metaphor which should encourage you. He wrote that anyone who trusts and obeys Jesus is like a fragile, cracked jar of clay with a treasure inside. The treasure of the glory of God in Jesus shines through your weaknesses and brokenness. That’s how God works. If you refuse God, you don’t fully benefit from his perfect providence amidst the challenges of living in this fallen world. In addition, you are limited in helping others. However in contrast, when you humbly depend on God, his power is manifested more completely in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8-10; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31). He forgives you, saves you, and restores you. In the process, he shines through the cracks of your humanity and experiences to reach others with the good news of his love and salvation found in Jesus.

So don’t feel like you have to carry the burdens of this current life. Also don’t grow weary from doing good and representing Jesus. Place any pressure, stress, and anxiety at the cross of Jesus. Cling to Jesus, for his death and resurrection alone have brought victory over your shortcomings and over the evil of this world. God, the master potter, has designed you for his glory. He is in the process of transforming you to become the best you can be, which is to become more like Jesus. Let him mold you for what he has next on earth and in heaven. The apostle Peter encouraged believers, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:5-11).