Friday, March 13, 2020

The Crushing Times

I opened my devotional this morning and when I began reading  I immediately knew I must share these thoughts with you. In these difficult times many of us likely need to hear this message. What follows is is from the book Embraced by Lysa TerKeust.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

    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 tot  talk to me in person about the test results.
    ... when the teacher sends one of "those" emails about my child.
    ... 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 a garden, 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."
    Jesus often met in the shadow and shade of the olive tree in the garden.
    This garden is the Garden of Gethsemane 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).
    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 that 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 wind is 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. 
    Thee 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, its bitterness would make you sick.
    For the olive to be edible, it has to go through a lengthy process that includes:
    sometimes salting,
    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 best way to preserve the olive for the long run is to crush it 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 2 Corinthians 4:8, where it says we are "pressed ... but not crushed"? Let's read verses eight and nine 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 need to revisit these truths often:
    When the sorrowful winds of the east blow I forgot they are necessary.
    When I'm being processed, I forget it's for the sake of ridding me of bitterness. 
    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." 

Lysa's words are heartening to me. I pray you will be encouraged.

Grace and peace to you from God,


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