I want to share a favorite blog post of mine from last year – this was published on my 30th birthday: August 19, 2015. I hope you’re challenged as I was in reading back through the words the Lord had placed on my heart!
Today is my 30th birthday. I distinctly remember turning 20 and the strangeness that I associated with leaving my “teenage” years behind. It seemed a large gap of time from turning 10 to turning 20. But I can’t say that I feel the same strangeness with leaving my 20’s. They were fast years, marked by some of the greatest stories of growth and heartache that I have ever known and yet also displaying the greatest stories of love and joy as of yet in my life. And I guess I’ve learned at this juncture from 29 to 30 that life, at its core, is a mixture of great joy, great sorrow, and the ordinary – and through each of these stages, God is so faithful!
My devotion this morning led me to read John 18, in which Jesus is betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew exactly what lay ahead from there, and while He didn’t like it, He trusted the Lord’s promises and knew what He had to do to fulfill the Word. (Jesus is amazingly brave and strong.) But my devotion this morning also led me to think on the concept of the olive tree, by whose branches Jesus was praying during His final moments on earth. This devotion then landed on the concept that the best way for us to preserve an olive for a long time is to press it to extract its oil. Jesus was absolutely being pressed in the Garden, awaiting the betrayal of Judas, the abandonment of his closest friends and disciples, the death on the cross, and even the seeming abandonment of his own Father in Heaven. Can there be anything worse than that? To KNOW that it was in your future? And yet, Christ, knowing what had to be done to accomplish the Father’s will, lived in surrender.
My first thought might have been to seek an escape route, to have looked for an easier way out of this situation. And I’ve wondered if the sweat drops of blood are evidence that Jesus was fighting his spirit of fear to stay on the narrow path that the Father had set for Him that He may fulfill the Word and become our pure, forever sacrifice. Boy am I so, so glad that He did. My life hangs on the fortitude that He showed in that moment to live in surrender to the Lord. Because even while Jesus knew that the hardship He would face would bring the greatest difficulty and distress ever known to man, He also knew that through this greatest of pain, the Lord would bring about His resurrection from the dead, and therefore provide a viable sacrifice for the sins of all mankind from there on out. To Jesus, the “oil” was greater than the pressing He had to endure. I believe we can take this truth and apply it to our own lives, but in order to do this, we must be intentional about looking back on our hardships (not nearly as severe as Christ’s – praise God) and seeing the value that exists because of the pressing we experienced.
I’ve been doing some thinking about the past ten years of my life and what they have held. Much of these days have been ordinary, but those ordinary days clumped together created seasons of time. So on this my 30th birthday, I want to share with you a couple of my own personal reflections from the key seasons of my life over the past decade and reflect for you on the pressing I endured and yet the value that came as a result.
1. Living through a season of singleness brought about the oil of contentment.
During my early twenties, I was fairly saddened that I had left my college years behind with no prospects of a life-long partner. Having watched many friends already enter that phase, it was heartbreaking to me that I wasn’t given that gift at the same time. Driven to compare, I found myself lacking, and that oftentimes led to self-pity…until I started to see that because of my singleness, I could do things that my friends couldn’t do. Namely, I could move to Colorado! Oh how I love that place – for the sweet and tender lessons I received from the Lord while there. It was during my time in Colorado that I learned to fall in love with the Lord – that I learned to rely on Him and see that He was who I needed to fulfill those longings in my heart. No man could do that for me. Of course, I met the best of men during my season of life there. But I first learned contentedness. So I’ll forever be grateful for the pressing season of singleness.
2. Living through a season of depression and anxiety brought about the oil of humility.
I left college feeling fairly confident – too confident. My self-reliance was at an all-time high, and I’m remiss to admit that I oftentimes saw my time with the Lord as another positive checkmark on the balance sheet of my life. Oh for great grace that taught my heart to truly fear the name of the Lord and grow in humility. While the darkness of depression can captivate you in fear, I will forever be grateful for the desperation that it caused in me for the Word of God. I hungered as never before and saw the Lord as the only truly perfect one. In 1 Corinthians 8:1, Paul speaks about the food that was sacrificed to idols. But in it, he mentions that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” While not dealing with food sacrificed to idols, this truth reigns supreme in all of life. And during this season of sorrow, I was able to see that knowledge had puffed me up and left me lacking in true love. Therefore, I was easily tempted to fear this season. But through the oil of humility, I learned more than I had since about the Lord and His love and how that Love casts out fear and brings unity. Praise God for the season of depression and anxiety – for it was worth the oil’s cost!
So I want to leave you with a commendation to not allow your soul to despair. Reflect on the oil that has come of the pressing, and test its value. Remember the Word of the Lord in Psalm 42:11, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”