Outside pressures had finally cooked the life out of me. When I started in ministry, I was told, “Get a full head of steam and never let off.” I did this for five years. When I suddenly faced some set backs and hurts, I found I was only full of hot air.
Letting off steam
For years, I did everything I could for God including numerous weekly home Bible studies, jail and homeless ministry, and full-time pulpit ministry. If I saw a ministry I could do, I jumped in—even ones I could not really do. After overextending myself too far for too long, I burned out. When my full head of steam vaporized, I found nothing left inside but a desire to let off some scream.
Sweetness survives the heat
I remember a high-school lab project where you put sugar in a test tube and hold it over a flame. After a while, the sugar will liquefy, bubble, and let off steam. Since sugar is made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, the hydrogen and oxygen combine to make water vapor (steam). This leaves you with a solid lump of pure carbon in the test tube.
Sweet people still have something solid to them after they go through the fire. God’s Word says our lives should be “like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.” (II Corinthians 2:14-15, NLT). Those of us who only build up a “head of steam” and do not develop the aroma of Christ-like humility and compassion will have nothing after we go through the fire. Those who develop fruit of the Spirit as they chug out to change the world, will become sweeter through each trial.
How to make a Diamond
Miners find carbon in a couple valuable formations: coal and diamonds. While both are made of carbon, coal has many other elements and impurities in it. Diamonds, however, have nothing but carbon forced into an incredibly tight shape through pressure and heat. This carbon formation is one of the strongest substances. It gives a sparkle that chemists struggle to duplicate.
When sweet people go through tough things, they become stronger and shine even brighter for Jesus. Self-glory implode into bitterness and leaves a person with nothing but vanishing steam.
I know I am not all I should be yet, but I have relearned my priorities. I am still as busy as ever for God, but now I make sure my walk with God comes before my work for Him.
Diamonds among us
Two of the sweetest people I know suffered impossible challenges while raising a disabled son. Dave and Nancy Norris were sweet people before facing this challenge. They endured years of emergency room trips. As if this heat was not enough, they endured the pressure of family and social rejection. They buried their only child at 13 years old, when God took him from this life.
As they overcame the heat and pressures life handed them, they began to sparkle more and more with joy of the Lord. Let their story bring a tearful smile to your face, when you read their book Sweet Pain.