But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 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 4:7-9 NIV
It’s been a long time since I wrote anything. In fact, I have been in a very long season of “personal life stuff”, a glaring component of which was isolation, in increasing amounts. I drew inward, like a turtle pulling into its shell. I “circled the wagons” as my husband would say. I shut people out. I stopped going to church, and I stopped writing. As it turns out, I’m not as resilient as I thought I was. Little did I know, however (not having that particular gift), that a time would come when isolation would be mandatory.
You Are Here.
Oddly enough, the towns and cities across the country now look like the over-crowded beach at the beginning of pretty much every scary-shark movie. Welcome to Opposite Land, and cue the Jaws’ Theme. No one will listen. You betcha they’re going to open that door, split up, stop at the creepy motel, ignore that animal/insect/zombie bite, not listen to their parents, not listen to their kids, check out the basement alone in the dark while taking a shower, dropping their keys, hiring that weird babysitter, and making out……Deep breath. I joke, but in reality we are seeing actual scary stuff, and still no one will listen. Life imitates art.
Bigger than this virus, is this awful FEAR. Those of us that realize the gravity of what’s really going on are definitely feeling “pressed down”. For myself, it’s like there is a huge, heavy weight in the center of my chest. It’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to think of anything except this dreadful sense of impending doom. I see its shadow everywhere I look. We are practically being held hostage on a global scale. Fear. Dread. Doom. Doom. DOOM!
We are hard pressed on every side. This is not the end of the story. This is also not the ONLY story.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ John 1:1-5 NIV (Emphasis mine)
Many of you recognized the phrase from the title of this post: “Pressed Down” from an entirely different passage, with an entirely different context.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ~ Luke 6:38 NIV (Emphasis mine)
Although there are those who would take issue with this, I believe that, as the Bible says:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV
Therefore, I believe that as we try to find sense in the current perplexing situation and its various facets, we can glean wisdom as well as encouragement from all Scripture, as it says: the Bible is God’s living and active Word (Hebrews 4:12).
That being said, if we look at the phrase “hard pressed” (which relates to difficult and weighty circumstances), and then take a look at the phrase “pressed down” (which, in the passage above, we see relates to the weighty, or full, and generous blessings of God), I believe we can see a correlation. “Hard pressed” can also be used to describe our stress levels during aggressive, stressful happenings, things we would do almost anything to see end as quickly as possible, or never happen at all. Meanwhile, “pressed down” can be understood as the aggressive, intense blessings that come from the God who made us and loves us ON PURPOSE. There is no skimping or subtlety with either of these phrases. The key word in both is “press”.
A very wise and godly woman once told me that we are all like sponges, and when we are squeezed by life, what is truly on the inside of us will come out, and there’s no way to hide it or deny it. I was 16. I didn’t admit it at the time, but her statement offended me, because of course it was true. It’s easy to plead ignorance or come up with a good cover story to explain away the things we do when we are “pushed too far”. However, our “hard pressed” selves are actually our TRUE selves. I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel good for me either. However, facing the truth of our shared hearts’ condition is the first step toward healing, and a necessary one if we are ever going to grow up into the men and women God intends for us to be.
Take heart! In order for the Good News of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection to have a point, there had to be a reason. The Reason behind saving us from this rather gruesome mess inside our hearts is God’s aggressive, intense love for us. God’s love compels him to reach out to us, to forgive us, to desire a close relationship with us, and LOVE us.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. ~ Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV (Emphasis mine)
Now, if we are truly committed to follow Christ, we will commit to following his example. What did Jesus do when he was here, walking around, bumping into people? Jesus listened to people. He spent time with them. He told them the truth. He was patient. He was gentle. Sometimes, he’d call them out. He gave them his time. He paid attention. Eventually, he gave himself. In short, he LOVED them.
Well then! Here we have a perfect opportunity to show the world around us how we have been transformed by this intense, compelling love! People are clearly in full panic mode. Will we offer our own fears into the mix, or will we choose to offer hope?
You Are Here.
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5-:14-21 NIV