There’s a difference between a release valve and a redistribution mechanism.
Sounds obvious when it’s written, but in practice it’s not the same. For example having taken on a week’s worth of work hassles and pressures on the job, some look forward to the end of the week having a drink or two (or more). Others look forward to going out to engage in various leisure pursuits. It looks on the surface like a release valve. It’s like that natter that someone has on the phone to a friend where they spill their guts about all the tension and frustration. A problem shared is apparently a problem halved.
Those are lovely sentiments, until on closer examination all that’s happening is that the angst and stress is not so much being released as being recycled. You can tell it’s recycled because there’s little indication that having had the drinks, or been out on the town or had the chat on the phone that their minds and souls are truly at rest. It is not as though their worry was extinguished after the activity. It has been placed somewhere else ready to rear its head again at the end of the next cycle – whether the week or month or even the next day. There has been no effective release – the feelings and thoughts have just been redistributed.
This is why having faithful relationships can be worth their weight in gold. The invitation to take your issues to the Lord in prayer is not one to take lightly at all. The invitation to throw all your cares on Him because He cares for you is not a cheap gimmick.
Jesus knows what it is to have the pressure build up over time. He knows what it is to fob off those feelings of worry that you want to avoid in watching a box-set. He sees and He knows and He is actively available to release you from those burdens. He is at hand to take those on and make that wondrous exchange that for your heartache He will give you His joy. For your anxiety, He will give you His peace. For your frustration, He can give you His calm. For your consternation, He can give you the wisdom to navigate and find yourself in the green pastures where He can make you lie down, rest, recuperate and be refreshed for the journey.
Treating prayer as the release valve can have tremendous effects on you. It is not about changing the circumstances primarily, it is about shifting your perspective of those circumstances. It’s about reminding you that as you’re in Christ you don’t have to be worried about how you’re doing under the circumstances or even in them, but you can see how He is guiding you from a place of being over those circumstances.
There is a release in applying the kind of prayer life that gives you full reign to cry out to Him. The kind of prayers that lets Him know exactly how you feel and at the same time how you throw yourself completely to His mercies.
That kind of life, throughout episodes in scripture have allowed men and women to pour out their concerns and burdens. As they have done so to a Father who hears and cares, He has been able to offer solace, comfort and a truly blessed consolation. Sometimes He answers, heals and resolves. Other times He gives reassurance of His presence and never-ending faithfulness even when the circumstances look dreary.
It’s a powerful thing to know we genuinely have something so powerful in the release valve of prayer. Not just on an individual basis and not just for my personal needs. This valve is just as potent at the community level and is something we can offer in service of others in need of that help on the inside.
Better a release valve than just redistributing within.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden