As a sinful human being, I rely on the Holy Spirit to help me respond with grace when I am under pressure. I have often fallen short on this. I’ve responded without grace or a caring heart toward my neighbor. I have lashed out, said unkind things, and made situations worse. I am clearly not an authority on responding correctly to stressful situations.
Some of these stressful situations are so intense that giving grace to my neighbor feels impossible. Yet our God makes the impossible possible, even while working through sinful, imperfect people. God’s Word is the authority on giving grace toward others. Let’s look to Scripture to discover how God helps us to respond with grace.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
My Study Bible says about verse 18, “Peace may not always be possible, but believers should never intentionally cause hostility.” When we are in these situations that put us under pressure and cause us to feel with intensity that we should respond in a sinful way, the Holy Spirit is there to help us respond faithfully, especially when we are hurt by others and do not know how to react.
In the new book Grace under Pressure: Responding Faithfully to Stress, author Christopher Kennedy reminds us, “People might hurt you and never feel sorry … We may never be reconciled to everyone completely. But we can intercede for others, including our enemies … We can be graceful by asking God to forgive them” (p. 68).
Praying for those who have harmed you is highly difficult. What do we even pray for? We can ask God to turn their heart toward Him. We can ask for healing between the parties involved. We can ask for peace. This all helps us to live faithfully and enact the lesson of Romans 12:17–18.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
The Eighth Commandment teaches us that we should put the best construction on everything. I, personally, have struggled with living this out. This temptation to break the Eighth is often amplified when we are facing a stressful situation. Again, we cannot rely on our own strength but need to lean on our Father. Pastor Kennedy tells us that we can do this. “When we’re under pressure, by God’s strength we resist the temptation to sin and instead respond in ways that honor Him” (p. 33).
Our words to others can share God’s grace. Often when we have been hurt or wronged, we want to tell others about it. It is not a bad thing to share burdens with others, but sometimes such sharing turns into gossip or uncharitable speech toward the wrongdoer. One way we can “let no corrupting talk” come from our mouths is to evaluate and think through how we are discussing a situation with others. Does this put the best construction on the situation? Does this honor what occurred but still treats them with dignity? The Holy Spirit can guide one in wisdom to answer these.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.
In Grace under Pressure, we read, “The temptation in pressure-packed moments is to give in to our impulses and blow up or melt down. That’s the temptation. But it’s not the inevitable end result. God also gives us strength to resist sin and to pursue righteous living” (p. 33).
These verses give clear instructions on how to resist sin in stressful moments. While it goes against our impulses, we need to be understanding of those around us, think through what we need to say, and ground our emotions in calmness.
The Holy Spirit works in us and strengthens us to resist the urge to react without grace. While it sometimes feels like righteous anger, it most likely is not righteous. Our human nature is selfish and our anger is oftentimes misguided. Slowing down can help us to remember that the person that we’re angry with is also an imperfect human like us.
God has given us the perfect example of what it is like to give grace in a situation where grace toward others seems absolutely impossible: Jesus on the cross. During the hours of intense physical and mental torture, Jesus gave grace to all. Through His Word and the Holy Spirit, we, too, can give grace in situations when we are under stress and pressure.
When we look to Jesus on the cross, not only can we see an example of resisting sin and giving grace, but we can also know we have been directly given that grace. Let’s rely on the Holy Spirit as we strive toward pursuing being faithful to God’s Word in daily and unusually stressful situations.
See how God gives grace generously. Read Grace under Pressure.