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 a 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.
John 18:1-2 tells us, "When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples" (NIV).
Jesus often met in the shadow and shade of the olive tree.
The olive grove mentioned above is the Garden of Gethsemane. In 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 olive tree is such a picture of why our hearts must go through the crushing times.
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 the winds of hardship and winds of 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.
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 not just how bitter it is, but also how strong and hard it is when picked straight from the tree. If you are harvesting olives for oil, you must pray for a soaking rain to come if you hope to get oil from the olives. It needs a hard rain of at least two to three hours so the water can make it all the way up the roots, through the tree and to the olives.
Then the olives can be picked and preserved.
And the best way to preserve an olive for the long run? Crush it and extract the oil from it.
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.
But here's the thing I must remember as I think back about my time with the olive tree:
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, speak to me in whatever way You need to. Whatever part of this is for me personally, may I see, receive and be revived. 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)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Are you walking through a difficult season? Look back on the points Lysa made. Write out how your situation may fall into one or all of these categories.