VERSE: “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me.” Matthew 11:29
OSWALD: “’The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ Where do the saints get their joy from? If we did not know some saints, we would say – ‘Oh, he, or she, has nothing to bear.’ Lift the veil. The fact that the peace and the light and the joy of God are there is proof that the burden is there too. The burden God places squeezes the grapes and out comes the wine…No power on earth or in hell can conquer the Spirit of God in a human spirit, it is an inner unconquerableness.”- – (April 14th)
MY THOUGHT: It has definitely been a squeezing, trying time for our family these past few weeks. Two weeks ago, Tuesday, our daughter-in-law received word that her grandfather passed away. Forty minutes later, I received word that my husband was in the emergency room with facial fractures sustained after diving for a ball during a church league volleyball game. We take our volleyball seriously here in Montana.
John was already scheduled for an elective surgery on Friday so reconstructive surgery was pushed out until Monday. On Wednesday, we received word that his brother was in a boating accident and not expected to live. John and his father rushed to Mark’s side. But Friday night, he was taken off of life support. Tuesday we travelled to Idaho for the funeral.
Such an intense, emotional, exhausting time. To be honest, I’ve been concerned for my husband. So much has happened in such a compressed span of time. Yet, through it all, I’ve watched the peace of God settle around John’s heart and mind. When asked how he’s doing, I’ve heard him answer, “I’m good” – and I know he means it. It isn’t a trite response, though it may sound like one to some. It isn’t a cliché or contrived denial, though some may wonder.
It is an accurate estimation of his current condition. And I know it’s true, for I’ve had a front row seat to his pain. Both physically and emotionally. I’ve witnessed as the “peace of God,” Philippians 4:7 describes, “which transcends all understanding” has stood guard over John’s heart and his mind. And it’s been a beautiful thing to behold.
John has found the place of “inner unconquerableness” Oswald describes. A place of peace in the middle of a storm. A strong fortess. A tower of strength. The settled calm John is experiencing isn’t worked up on his own. It is a gift of God. And rather than trying to explain it or understand it, he is simply living in it.
Contrary to popular belief, Christians aren’t exempt from trouble. In fact, we’re promised exactly the opposite. “In this world, you will have trouble,” Jesus tells us in John 16:33. “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I’m sure I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: “Christianity isn’t the absence of problems. It is the promise of God’s presence.”
Life will trample us at times. It will attempt to sideswipe us and swamp us with sorrow, pummel and pulverize us with pain. But when those squeezing times come, we have a choice. Will we allow the burden to press the “grapes” of our lives and produce wine? Or will we whine because of the pressure that is applied?
It all depends on what we do with the pain. Will we allow it to form a barrier between us and God? Or will we choose, instead, to use the pain to press us closer to the Father’s heart? For He alone has everything we need to face everything that comes our way.
“If you have the whine in you, kick it out ruthlessly,” Oswald concludes in today’s devotion. “It is a positive crime to be weak in God’s strength.”
I need that reminder today as we continue to navigate doctor’s appointments and the grieving that must be processed. Don’t look to yourself as the source of strength, Joanna. Look to Jesus.
For “I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:13. And so can you and I.