“The Crushing Times”
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)
No one wants to have their heart crushed. But being wounded in deep places happens. Sometimes it just seems to be part of the rhythm of life.
And when these hard times come, we feel it all so very deeply. And we wonder if others have these hard, hard moments. After all, we don’t snap pictures of the crushing times and post them on Instagram.
We just wonder if we have what it takes to survive …
… when the doctor calls and says he needs to talk to me in person about the test results.
… when the teacher sends one of “those” emails about my child.
… when someone I love closes their heart and turns their back on me.
… when I feel so utterly incapable and unable and afraid.
I suspect you know the tear-filled place from which I speak.
So, let’s journey to the olive tree and learn.
To get to the place I want to take you, we must cross the Kidron Valley in Israel.
Jesus often met in the shadow and shade of the olive tree.
The olive grove mentioned above is the Garden of Gethsemane. This garden is where Jesus, just before his arrest, said to Peter, James and John, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” (Mark 14:34, NIV).
Jesus knew the crushing-heart feeling. He felt it. He wrestled with it. He carried it.
And I don’t think it was a coincidence the olive tree was there in this moment of deep sorrow for Jesus.
The crushing times are necessary times.
First, in order to be fruitful the olive tree has to have both the east wind and the west wind. The east wind is the dry hot wind from the desert. This is a harsh wind. So harsh that it can blow over green grass and make it completely wither in one day.
The west wind, on the other hand, comes from the Mediterranean. It brings rain and life.
The olive tree needs both of these winds to produce fruit-- and so do we. We need both winds of hardship and relief to sweep across our lives if we are to be truly fruitful.
The crushing times are processing times.
Another thing to consider about the olive tree is how naturally bitter the olive is and what it must go through to be useful. If you were to pick an olive from the tree and try to eat it this month, its bitterness would make you sick.
For the olive to be edible, it has to go through a lengthy process that includes:
and waiting some more.
It is a lengthy process to be cured of bitterness and prepared for usefulness.
If we are to escape the natural bitterness of the human heart, we have to go through a long process as well … the process of being cured.
The crushing times are preservation times.
The final thing I want to consider about the olive is the best way to preserve it for the long run. It must be crushed in order to extract the oil. The same is true for us. The biblical way to be preserved is to be pressed. And being pressed can certainly feel like being crushed.
But what about our key verse, 2 Corinthians 4:8, where it says we are “pressed … but not crushed”? Let’s read verses 8 and 9 in the King James Version: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; …”
This was one of the biggest “aha” moments for me standing in the shadow of the olive tree: crushing isn’t the olive’s end.
Crushing is the way of preservation for the olive. It’s also the way to get what’s most valuable, the oil, out of the olive. Keeping this perspective is how we can be troubled on every side yet not distressed … pressed to the point of being crushed but not crushed and destroyed.
I think I need to revisit these truths often:
When the sorrowful winds of the east blow, I forget they are necessary.
When I’m being processed, I forget it’s for the sake of ridding me of bitterness.
And when I’m being crushed, I forget it’s for the sake of my preservation.
I forget all these things so easily. I wrestle and cry and honestly want to resist every bit of this. Oh, how I forget.
Maybe God knew we all would forget.
And so, He created the olive tree.
Dear Lord, I’m so thankful that on the other side of the process of being broken and waiting is a useful heart free of bitterness. Help me to hold fast to You when the days are especially hard. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV)
I love how Eugene Peterson describes those same verses, “You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (MSG)