In the crushing
In the pressing
You are making new wine (1)
Those are the opening lyrics to a song by Hillsong Music entitled New Wine. The lyrics have been stuck in my head for a few days. They made me think of Joseph and Corrine (Names changed to guard their identity).
My young friends, Joseph and Corrine, are feeling the crushing and pressing in their marriage relationship right now. For the last couple of months, they have been in a season of working through some challenges in their marriage and trying to make some headway. But about a week ago, they were hit by another wave of difficulty that has both of them really discouraged and questioning many things. I am hurting with and for my young friends.
What this young couple is going through reminds me of times when I have felt the crushing and pressing of life circumstances. The loss of a beloved family member to suicide. A friend in ministry whose spouse suddenly went AWOL on her marriage and family. A good friend killed in an alcohol-related accident. I can clearly remember receiving the devastating news of each one of those.
So what are you and I, as well as Joseph and Corrine, supposed to do in the crushing and pressing we all experience on this side of eternity? How do we respond to suffering as we follow Christ? And what is this new wine that God is trying to bring out of us?
A Little Research
In the midst of thinking about them and the song, my curiosity got the best of me, and I did a little research on winemaking. Here is a summary of what I found:
“Crushing the grapes is a very straight-forward task. It’s simply a matter of bursting the skins so that all the inner solids can be exposed to the fermentation. Enough free-flow juice will release from the grapes to turn the crushed mix into something liquid we call a “wine must”. Once the wine must has fermented for around 5 to 7 days it is then time to remove all the solids. This is when you’ll see a winery pull out the grape presses and start pressing the wine must. The must is dumped into the pressing basket. Immediately, free-run juice will start flowing from the grape press spout. What’s remaining in the basket is then pressed to extract even more juice.” (2)
That helps me to understand that both the crushing of the grapes and the pressing of the grapes are critical to make wine. This process takes grapes and makes something completely new out of them.
As I think about how this relates to difficulties we face in our lives, I liken this crushing and pressing process to the put off and put on commands we find in our New Testaments (see Eph. 4:22-24 and Col 3:8-10). Once we are reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ, we are in the process of being transformed into a new person. The old person must die, and the new person must be more and more consistently seen. It's as if this process of sanctification is crushing the old person and pressing out this new person.
This means that the difficulties and suffering, that you and I and Joseph and Corrine are facing, are purposeful. God is giving us the opportunity to be made new through them. But we must cooperate with God in this process. Here is what Pastor Bill Elliff shares on this:
No one but God could put all of our problems and afflictions in perspective in two words. But, the sovereign Lord uses His apostle Paul to learn and pen this incredible truth for us. A truth that gives meaning to everything difficult in our lives.
"...who comforts us in all our affliction SO THAT we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Cor. 1:4)
"...we had the sentence of death within ourselves SO THAT we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope." (2 Cor. 1:9-10)
"So that" indicates cause, effect, and purpose. “This happened so that this could happen.” In this case, Paul addresses his own problems and the ironic, spiritual results of difficulty. And in so doing, he gives us an incredibly helpful theology of suffering.
Crushing Pressure is what the word “affliction” means and is what we experience. We all have it and see the results of this heavy weight. These are the things we lay in bed and think about. The stress that ties up our soul. The things that tempt us to worry and fear. That we can't seem to shake. Sometimes they are huge, cataclysmic things, but often they are a series of piranhas that incessantly nibble away our peace.
For a wise follower of Christ, when crushing pressure comes, it drives us to Trust. The pressure became so great in Paul that there was nowhere else to turn. He "despaired even of life." But Paul’s view of its purpose was different than most. This difficulty, Paul said, came SO THAT "we would not trust in ourselves, but in God." We often will not trust until we come to this point. At the end of ourselves we turn in absolute dependency and expectancy to Christ. This is faith, and faith is what life is all about. Being pushed back into the arms of our Father is the greatest possible position.
And when we lean into Him we find Comfort. We think of a recliner. But the word Paul uses is “paraklesis” and it means to “come alongside and lift the load.” When we are under the weight of crushing issues, God comes alongside and lifts the load in supernatural ways, if we will trust Him. We discover His presence, power, and provision in ways we would never know otherwise. And to our amazement, with ever-increasing pressure, we find this Divine lift is always sufficient. "For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”
But there is more, and here is where purpose is realized. This sufficient, wonderful comfort equips us to Comfort Others with the "comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (Vs. 4). We are now prepared to help people in ways we were never equipped before. We have known the pressure and the supernatural help of God. Now we can relate to those who are in the same difficulties and be instruments of the Spirit that bring them the same help.
Our sorrows are not wasted! What the world, flesh, and devil throw at us cannot harm us, but strengthens and equips us if we will not trust in ourselves, but God. As the days and years roll by, we realize with growing amazement those very pressures are the gateway to our greatest ministry. And ministry to God and others is what the few, remaining years of our life are all about as we prepare for a pressureless eternity. (3)
Two small words: “so that”. Words that the Lord gave us to encourage us in times when we feel the crushing and pressing of life. So thankful that God uses His Word to bring us to a place where we can trust Him and receive His comfort.
And to return to where we started, check out a couple more lines from the song, New Wine, below:
So I yield to You and to Your careful hand
When I trust You I don’t need to understand
So rather than fight the crushing and pressing in our lives, let us choose to surrender and cooperate with the Lord in this process. That's when He can bring the new wine that the song talks about, as we are transformed and the Lord is glorified!
PRAYER: Lord, I thank You that You do not leave me in times of crushing and pressing but are near to me and comfort me in all my afflictions. Lord, I yield to You and surrender to Your hand, even though I do not fully understand all You are doing. Lord, use times of suffering in my life to move me away from trusting in myself to more and more deeply trust and depend on You. I want the old man I was to die and the new person You are creating to be seen more and more clearly. I set my hope on You alone! And, Lord, once I feel Your closeness and comfort, help me to see opportunities to comfort others with the comfort You have so graciously given me. In the Name of Jesus.
ADDITIONAL: If you want to read further on this, check out these posts:
Desiring God Ministries: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/waiting-for-god-alone
Proverbs 31 Ministries: https://www.proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2016/08/25/the-crushing-times-2
(1) Link to YouTube Video New Wine by Hillsong: https://youtu.be/QbJaM_EneMw
(2) Link to Article on Crushing vs. Pressing Grapes for Winemaking: https://blog.eckraus.com/difference-crushing-pressing-grapes
(3) Bill Elliff Post: https://billelliff.org/blogs/news/so-that
Photo by Maja Petric on Unsplash
Written by Glen Solberg, Abiding Marriage 2020. All Rights Reserved. Please email us at info@AbidingMarriage.org with any comments or questions.