Hard Pressed

“Can you cover for me?”

“I need a small favor.”

“Please just come to the meeting. We really need your special gifts.”

Sometimes, it sounds like the whole world is clamoring in my ear. In addition, my inner voice jabbers 24-7. Add in my typical day plus never-enough sleep and, well, I don’t wish to complain, but feeling hard-pressed on every side is status quo.
Sound familiar?

The 21st century lament of too much to do and not enough time probably would find a sympathizer in the Apostle Paul. Consider his life: He spends all of his time going hither and thither, running from angry mobs, trying to keep false teachers out of far-flung churches, in and out of jail, all while attempting to support himself as a tent-maker. (Whew! I’m exhausted just writing that.)

It’s not that far of a reach that he described himself as a jar of clay. But not an ordinary jar. No, Paul’s outer trappings contained an almost indescribable treasure. 

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
{2 Corinthians 4:6}

Some days, trying to find that treasure in my clay jar feels like just one more uncrossed-off item on my To-Do list. That’s when I head back to Paul and God. 

Try it with me. Go get yourself 4 index cards and your Bible. (You can use almost any kind of paper but you need to write on both sides.) 

On one side of one card, write “Hard pressed on every side.” On the next card, write “Perplexed.” On the next, write “Persecuted.” And on the last card, write “Struck down.”

Lay out your cards. Look at those words. Do they describe how you are feeling? How you have felt in the past? What you fear of the future?

This could be difficult, but I want you to try. On the “Hard pressed” card, write down exactly what and/or who is making you feel that way. Maybe, it’s consequences of a sin that you are struggling with. Or, it might be another person’s struggle affecting you. 

Once you have written everything and everyone pressing hard on you, move onto the “Perplexed” card. Same thing. Write down everything that is perplexing you. And then, write what makes you feel persecuted and anything that strikes you down.

Don’t skip the step of writing things out. It’s important. The act of writing will make you focus on exactly what is pressing on, perplexing, persecuting and striking you. And, don’t be afraid of reading exactly what you have identified. Remember: You carry a treasure inside your clay jar.

Pick up your Hard Pressed card. Read – aloud if you want – everything pressing on you. Then, open your Bible to Isaiah 41:10. Read those words from the Sovereign Lord. Let their power – His power - wash over you. Feel His righteous right hand upholding you.

Turn the card over and write “But not crushed.”

When you are ready, move on to your Perplexed card. Look at all the things that baffle you. Make you feel inadequate. Now, read John 15:4. Jesus is giving you the only answer that matters. Only in Him, can you rise above the confusion of this broken world. Only Jesus will remain in you.

Turn the card over and write “But not in despair.”

Your Persecuted card is next. It’s okay if your reasons for feeling persecuted don’t seem like much when  compared to being tossed in jail or threatened with death. God wants all of our cares cast on Him.

Read Psalm 124. If you didn’t see it, look at the description of the psalm – a song of ascents. A hymn praising God for not deserting Israel, even when His people would have been swallowed alive or raging waters would have swept them away. Not only did God help them escape the fowler’s snare, but the trap is broken, not to be used again. 

Turn the card over and write “But not abandoned.” 

Lastly, pick up your Struck down card. Take a long look at what, who or why you are struck down. Do you feel like a failure? Like you are so pushed down, you don’t want to stand up? I’m right there with you. 

But Romans 8:37-39 tells us that, even face-down in the dirt, we who are in Christ are more than conquerors. And this empowering, encompassing love that still pours from Calvary’s cross will never permit us to be separated from our Lord and Savior.

Feel that for a while.  Nothing in creation, now or in the future, can separate us from the Maker of heaven and earth. From your Father.

Turn the last card over and write “But not destroyed.”

Read one last bit of God’s Word:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
(2 Corinthians 4 : 7)

It’s not about us. It doesn’t matter if we have microscopic cracks or gaping fractures.  The glorious Light of the world, sent by He who spoke light into existence, is what shines in this jar of clay. Hard pressed on every side but not crushed.

See You In The Round!


*Scripture quotations are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.