From Peer to Fear
I remember sitting in my ninth grade Sunday school class hearing about peer pressure. The example was someone standing on a chair trying to pull another friend up onto the chair with them. No matter how hard she tried, it was much easier for the friend on the ground to pull the friend off the chair. And that was how peer pressure was explained - being pulled down, pressured to join the lower levels of temptation and make all sorts of bad decisions.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t really have anyone standing beside me chanting my name today to make a bad decision. More often than not, the pressure I feel comes from inside. It’s an internal pressure that’s rooted in fear. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.
Pressure in our Hearts
I talked with about a dozen women this past week and asked them one question:
Can you tell me some things you feel “pressured” to do - as a mom, wife, friend, Christian - or things you carry internally that you “should” be doing?
I heard back from friends who are single, married, dating, moms, friends and employees. Do you identify with any of these answers?
- Pressure for my children to act or look a certain way.
- Pressure as a friend to always know what to say.
- Pressure to stay busy but also available.
- Pressure to reach financial goals.
- Pressure to have more and be more.
- Pressure to spend more time in my Bible.
- Pressure to exercise more.
- Pressure to give more financially.
- Pressure to eat better and cook all of our meals.
- Pressure to be a little tougher/stronger.
- Pressure to do “all the things” like workout regularly, provide healthy, balanced meals for my family, keep my house clean, get to all my projects, plan social gatherings for friends, volunteer and be more involved at church and in my community, make sure my child isn’t watching too much tv, make sure I’m playing with her enough and teaching her as well, make my marriage a priority and always have on makeup when he’s home.
- Pressure to be sexier with my husband and more generous in that part of marriage.
- Pressure to still fit into jeans that fit a few years ago.
- Pressure to call friends more often, invite people into our home, and write thank you notes.
- Pressure to do it all - be a great wife, involved mom, impactful career, make healthy meals, exercise, be involved at church and have a deep spiritual life, be a faithful friend and wise with finances - at all times.
- Pressure to be fun and make friends easily.
- Pressure to read more books.
- Pressure to be more quiet - I always felt too loud to be a good Christian girl.
- Pressure to be submissive, more gentle.
- Pressure to have my home constantly clean though my toddler is constantly making a mess.
- Pressure to be productive any time my child is asleep, and there’s guilt for needing a break.
Just reading these things made my heart feel heavy. It’s not a feeling of pity but of understanding - a head nod that understands where and why they feel these things. Do you feel those pressures, too?
Though the answers varied, there was one thing in common. We all feel pressure to be something or do something at the end of the day - and more often than not, we don’t live up to these expectations. We don’t check off all the boxes. We physically can’t be all things at all times! And yet, we feel pressure to try.
Pressure in the Garden
These things have been heavy on my heart as I read the story of Eve, because I see where it all began for her, and how we are similar. We read Genesis 3 today where the serpent asked Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1) We have to read with our eyes open for red flags, because we see the enemy scheming in our own lives still today!
Red flag number one:
Satan added doubt and twisted the truth. This is his nature. He makes us question and he adds to what is actually expected of us. He took a partial truth and made Eve doubt what she knew.
“And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Genesis 3:2-3)
Red flag number two:
Eve answered incorrectly. She added to what God said. Genesis 2:17 tells us that God did not say anything about not touching the tree. She was relying on her own memory and got it wrong! We are not above mistakes, friends. We can "trust our gut" and still get it wrong at times. This is where pride can get the best of us and make us more susceptible to sin.
Red flag number three:
Eve answered independently. Eve doesn’t go back to God to clarify. See, God was in the Garden too! He was there. He was probably a few trees over, but Eve chose to answer on her own. She could have gone back to the source to clarify, but she chooses to just answer from memory - and she gets it wrong.
Eve also could have asked Adam, her built-in accountability partner. She could have asked for a lifeline here - but she didn’t. She went into battle unarmed and we know what happened as a result. This again points us to a need for humility - we cannot do all things on our own!
The serpent continues to spew his lies at Eve: “But the serpent said to the woman, ’You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make on wise, she took its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:4-6).
We see fear pressure for the first time in Scripture here in Genesis 3. Eve felt fear pressure when she noticed that the tree looked pretty good, desirable even! We see:
- Fear of missing out.
- Fear of not having what looks desirable and delightful.
- Fear of having something withheld that we want.
- Fear of not getting God’s best for us.
At the end of the day, these fears that caused Eve to forget God’s Word and choose what delighted her flesh. These fears are not unlike the fears we carry today. The pressure we feel is often rooted in fear:
- Fear that we won’t measure up.
- Fear that others will know we haven’t cooked enough meals, had enough quiet time, cleaned the house enough, or gone to gym enough.
- Fear that we will let our friends, husband, kids or family down.
- Fear that we will be judged.
- Fear that we will never be enough.
This is fear pressure, and quite honestly - it’s harder to overcome than peer pressure. Peer pressure is coming at us from the outside - but fear pressure comes from within. It’s the flesh in us talking back to what we know is true. It’s the enemy whispering lies that take root in our thoughts and cause us to doubt. Fear pressure can only be rooted out through the power of the Holy Spirit!
Perfect Love Casts Out Fear
So what can we learn from Eve? We learn what not to do. We learn our vulnerabilities. We learn that in order to fight this pressure - we must go back to the source.
- What did God REALLY say?
- What does God call me to as a wife?
- What does God ask of me as a mother?
- What does God tell me to do as a believer?
- What part of my beliefs are rooted in culture and not in Christ?
John 10:10 tells us that His Words bring abundant life. The enemy’s words steal, kill and destroy. This is the reason we must cling to God's Word to combat the lies of the enemy.
Psalm 119 tells us that His Words are lovely, reviving to the soul, and encouraging. The enemy’s words lead us to death (Proverbs 14:12). In order to stand firm against the enemy's attacks and the internal pressure we face, we must cling to the lovely Words of God.
When we start to feel the fear-pressure building from within, we must take hold of the lies we’re believing and replace it with the truth of God’s Word (2 Corinthians 10:5). We do battle in this way. We don't let those thoughts run off unattended to, we grab them and replace them as quickly as possible.
When we don't know what to do and we feel utterly overwhelmed in defeat,
- We turn to God for clarity, wisdom and guidance (James 1:5-6).
- We use the accountability around us for backup (John 14:26, Galatians 6:1-5).
- We lean not on our own understanding but on God (Proverbs 3:5-6).
- We turn to Him because He is our defense (Isaiah 58:11)!
Because you know what casts out fear? Love (1 John 4:18). God loves you, He sees you, and He has not given you a heavy burden like the world has given you (Matthew 11:28-30). He calls you to abundant, free life in Him (John 10:10, Galatians 5:1).
This is the call of the believer. This is the freedom of following Christ. We focus our hearts on Him and let the other things fade away. This is our call to be a disciple of God! Let His love push out the fear pressures you carry and rest instead of His perfect love, friend. Christ is enough and because His Spirit dwells in you, you are enough in Christ!