When Life Feels Crushing

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Here’s When Life Feels Crushing

“This is crushing.”

Some dear friends, Sam and Melinda, spoke those words in the midst of unfathomable pain. They had just lost their daughter, whom they had adopted years earlier from a Russian orphanage, to suicide. They knew she had been struggling and she’d tried to take her life before, but they thought she was doing better. They were hoping to change the trajectory of her future but with her suicide came fresh doubts and questions: did adopting her make any difference in her life?

On top of this, their daughter had been a single mom and now they are left to raise their four-year-old grandson on their own. Too young to know how to process his grief, he has been lashing out verbally and physically at everyone. Especially them. They are learning how to sit with their own grief, help their other adult children process theirs, and to offer their grandson unconditional love and acceptance. Few understand and even fewer enter in. It’s exhausting. Melinda also has cancer and deals with daily fatigue and the all-encompassing isolation of Covid. Their days have little, if any, relief. The situation feels surreal at times and all-too-real at others. 

Grief upon grief upon grief.

Many of us understand grief that is piled on top of each other. Seasons where the difficulties we face go from bad to worse to impossible. Seasons where crushing seems the only apt word to describe what we’re going through. Seasons where life feels relentless.

Sam said he’d been thinking about how wine is made and likened the process to his life. Being crushed and then waiting in the dark for what seems like forever to see if any good will come out of this. I have prayed and waited with them, knowing with God nothing is unredeemed, but watching to see how God will use this. 

After Sam’s words, I researched how wine was made, wanting to understand his analogy more deeply. I learned that the best wine requires grapes from vines which have faced harsh conditions including a careful calibration of water. Neglected vines that have plenty of water often concentrate their energy on spreading out and producing leaves.  They produce little fruit. They may look beautiful and leafy, but they are not truly flourishing. Well-tended vines, restricted and with little water, produce plentiful grapes. Their fruit becomes intense, having battled for every hard won nutrient they’ve devoured. 

The vines are then vigorously pruned, often cut back to the bare trunk. The best wineries know how critical this is to good fruit, while amateurs often are hesitant to do this radical work. It seems unnecessary. The expert vinedresser intimately knows what the vines and grapes have already endured but is also willing to do the radical pruning that is essential for future growth and flourishing. He knows what pruning is essential to produce luscious fruit, the critical element in fine wine that is rich and deep. 

Yet before they become wine, these grapes enter into the next step of the process: the crushing. Here the grapes are met with intense pressing to squeeze whatever liquid can be drawn from them. This juice is then poured into barrels and set aside to age. That involves being hidden away, waiting in a dark cellar, away from light. This maturation process makes the wine smoother and less acidic – so the longer the wait, the better the wine

Just as wine undergoes a long and complex process before it becomes a drink to be savored, so does bread. Its life begins with the crushing and grinding of the grain to become that warm, comforting morsel that nourishes us. The grain is useless until broken. 

Together the crushing of the grape and the crushing of the grain produce a feast that those who follow Christ recognize – communion. The bread is broken, piece by piece, and placed into open hands. The wine is poured out into a cup. Both the bread and wine feed us as we remember the most life-altering crushing in all of history. Christ endured the ultimate crushing. He gave his body and blood for us – it was God’s will to crush him as an offering for us (Isaiah 53:10). Christ was “pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) Jesus was crushed for us, which gave us life, brought us peace, and saved our souls. 

Christ’s crushing ensures that we will never experience the pain of punishment that our sin demands, but it does not mean we will not experience pain. 

Throughout Scripture we see how God has redeemed the disappointment and pain of his people.

Leah felt unwanted by her husband, but God chose her to be in the line of Christ. Joseph spent decades watching his situation worsen and yet God made him fruitful in the land of his affliction (Genesis 41:52). God used the apostle Paul, a man whose life was marked by suffering for the gospel, to demonstrate his grace (2 Cor 12:9). While we can now see how God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20), it must have felt discouraging and disheartening in the middle.

In seasons of grief when suffering seems relentless, we often wonder if it will ever end. It will. God knows exactly, to the minute, how long we must endure suffering. Scripture says, “Grain is crushed for bread, but one does not thresh it forever; one drives the cart wheel and horses over it, but does not pulverize it (Isaiah 28:28 NRSV).

Like the bread and the wine, the elements of our communion with God, we are often crushed before God uses us. We endure grief upon grief upon grief. We go through adversity, we’re pruned, pressed to the ground, and then we wait in the dark, wondering what, if anything, is happening. But our God knows exactly what is happening. He is doing something extraordinary with our lives. Something that will change us, give life to others, and glorify God. Suffering with Christ always produces something magnificent. God feeds us and feeds others.

In the process, God will never leave us. He knows that we are dust. He knows what we can endure. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18). He will draw near to us and comfort us with his love and presence. Everything he brings into our lives is a result of his loving care.

Do you feel as though you are being crushed? Does your suffering feel overwhelming? Are you waiting in the dark alone?

I’m sure Sam and Melinda feel that way. And yet we are trusting with them that God is doing something exquisite in and through their lives. What may have been ordinary water is being turned into extraordinary wine, quietly and behind the scenes. It’s happening now, though its deep work is largely hidden. But when it’s revealed, heaven and earth will rejoice for it will be astonishingly beautiful. 

If you are feeling crushed today, be assured that your suffering is not meaningless and that one day you will see all the beauty that God has wrought through it. Trust that he is producing something that could not have been produced without the seemingly harsh conditions, the dark barrels, the long wait and the grinding wheel. And one day in heaven, when we fully taste its richness, we will better understand how God always saves the good wine until the end (John 2:10).

source : https://www.vaneetha.com/journal/when-life-feels-crushing

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