Have you ever gone to the grocery store and after arriving home to unload, you find the loaf of bread, carton of eggs or tomatoes crushed? Even though we may lay them out, they never morph into what we saw to begin with. Likewise, our lives are similar. For it is in the valleys and storms, the crushing and pressing, the trials and tears, we find out who we are and what we are made of, as well as who we can depend on to be there for us.
- Who am I?
The answer to this question shifts as we weather seasons of life. Although if we do not intentionally pursue the answer, the world will try to determine it for us.
For years, my life revolved around my desire to please everyone around me. Yet, as I came to find that nothing I did or said was ever good enough, I was left spinning, especially since expectations and popular culture are constantly changing.
Still, as this cycle repeated, I continued to lose more of me, further amplifying when I got sick and could not teach, until I no longer recognized the girl in the mirror staring back at me. Exhausted and hopeless, I cried out to God and it was there, in my despair and brokenness that He met me.
Whispering truth into my heart and mind, I learned who and whose I am: His beloved child (Galatians 4), fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and He created me with a specific plan and purpose in mind (Romans 8).
And dear friends, this truth has changed everything.
- What are we made of?
Once we settle the identity crisis, we may further discover what we are made of. Although rather than focusing on our physical composition with genetics, cells, and organ systems or outward appearance today, we will look deeper to the heart of the matter, our CHARACTER.
Though before you just skip ahead, consider: When you are pressed and squeezed in the trials of life, what comes out?
Is it compassion or complaining? Is it panic or peace? Is it over/undereating, drinking, or gambling? Or running to our Lord to fill the aching? Is it lashing out or inviting others into our grieving? Is it hating or looking for opportunities even in bed to serve Him?
In no way am I implying this transformation is easy. It is not always pretty, nor does it happen overnight. Although when we surrender all, God can turn our suffering into His glory. Pain into purpose.
Nonetheless, we must be intentional about cultivating fruit that will last through the good times and bad. For as it says in 1 Peter 4:12, Beloved, it is not a matter of “if” trials will come but “when”.
Thus, by developing a personal relationship with the Lord through daily study of His word, talking and listening to Him like a friend, praising and thanking, fellowshipping, and sharing the gospel with those who do not know Him, we will have weapons that cannot be taken no matter what diagnosis, financial crisis, loss, or natural disaster may press you and your family. This earth and body are merely temporary. Although because of the cross and Jesus dying for our sins, we can fix our eyes on eternity.
- Who can we depend on to be there for us?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic these past 10 months, many have experienced the depth of isolation and loneliness firsthand, going weeks or months without seeing anyone. While physical barriers have prevented fellowship in person, there are still others who put up walls emotionally/mentally, not inviting anyone into their journey. Though regardless of the root, it can truly be deadly, sucking all energy, life and hope out of our very being.
In contrast, there is truly such power and blessings in finding your tribe to rally with and for you on the mountaintop and in the valley. Whether it looks like Zoom meetings or texting, the people in your household or across the country, we must find community.
Still, we are human, and the best of friends will fall and fail us. Though I believe in these moments, we may grasp an invaluable truth of learning to depend on God fully.
In 2nd Corinthians 1:8-9, it says, “We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.” (NLT)
Even in the darkest days of your life, when all seems lost and gone, take heart, dear friend, for God is always there and He is all you need, I can personally attest time and time again.
Therefore, as we conclude, let’s consider a grape. Though one puny grape seems useless, it can be transformed through the process of harvesting, sorting, fermenting, and pressing. While it is not necessarily pretty and truly laborious work to get it right, the vintner remains present and trusts the process. Thus, as further steps unfold in time, a beautiful product is created: wine.
Likewise, even in the pressing and crushing of our lives, we may trust God, our winemaker, for He remains with us and knows what He is doing. Though it may be a messy process and take time, it is worth it friends. For just as new wine cannot be poured back into the old (Mark 2:22), we are never the same after our crushing.
Thus, as we launch into the New Year, will you join me in praying for the Lord to make new wine from our lives. Even in our trials and suffering, even when we do not understand or know God’s plan, may Jesus be what pours out of us.
*In the praying and writing of this post, the song, “New Wine” by Hillsong continued to be played across various players/days which I believe is no coincidence. So here is a link to the the video.