Winning Nobel and Pulitzer prizes for his life’s work was inevitable for Ernest Hemingway. He was by all accounts a brilliant scoundrel. He was a master at developing characters with the code hero traits of honor and courage. It was Hemingway that popularized the phrase, “grace under pressure.”
Reflecting on his work, he once said that, “No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure.” His work reflected that idea, such as in “The Old Man and the Sea.” As he fought the massive fish hooked on his line, the old man “settled comfortably against the wood and took his suffering as it came and the fish swam steadily and the boat moved slowly through the dark water. There was a small sea rising with the wind coming up from the east and at noon the old man’s left hand was uncramped. ‘Bad news for you, fish,’ he said and shifted the line over the sacks that covered his shoulders. He was comfortable but suffering, although he did not admit the suffering at all.” The old man courageously endured his suffering, because that was his lot in life.
Though grace under pressure was a useful theme to Hemingway, it precedes him by far. Jesus stood apart from other teachers (“the crowds were amazed at His teaching for He was teaching them as having authority”) because he promoted and demonstrated a more profound version of that theme. He said that people persecuted for righteousness are blessed and rewarded. He said to reconcile with someone who has wronged you. He taught to “make friends quickly with your opponent,” and “whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” These teachings recognize the pressure and call for grace. Perhaps the toughest to practice is, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mat. 5)
Jesus didn’t just teach this. He lived and died by it for your eternal benefit. He is the “author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). He now offers to exchange his life for yours. Upon that transaction, you have the hope of eternity, which sets your present circumstances into perspective.
To endure suffering with grace is to move toward perfection. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jam. 1:2-4). No one is immune from the troubles of life and the human condition. The question is, are you prepared to exhibit grace under pressure?