“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.”
2 Corinthians 4:8 (NIV)
In the days of our lives we face fatigue, pain, criticism, stress, frustration, and disappointment. Hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.
Our perishable flesh is subject to suffering and prone to sin. Even though we fall short, we have been entrusted with a priceless and precious treasure.
“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 (NIV)
Think about all of the circumstances that press hard upon our lives.
Maybe it is health conditions and concerns. Chronic pain, tiresome treatments, the wait & uncertainty, complex & costly insurance processing, and praying for recovery. Both wanting people to know you aren’t at your best, be patient, but not wanting the condition be the center of all discussions. Missing the days that felt well and the things that used to come with ease.
Perhaps it is relational. Struggling to be understood and heard by others who are quick to make both assumptions and accusations. Longing to be met with gentle words of love and comfort, instead of others demanding their way. Hoping someone will set aside their expectations of where they think you should be or what they think you should do, to meet you right where you are at, to allow you a safe place to be.
It could be financial challenges, when the time, effort, and investment poured into the work is not returning what was hoped for. Unforeseen complications increase the resources required and reduce the benefits. Wondering if it is wise to continue to hope things will go well when the disappointments seem to come in daily.
Maybe it is not one specific area, but a culmination of everything that feels as if the daily grind is wearing holes into your heart. The grit of life is digging continually into the most tender parts of your body, mind, and emotions that it has blistered, broken, and is now causing a raw pain screaming for your attention.
Hard pressed. Perplexed. Persecuted. Struck down.
The woman at the well who talks to Jesus in John chapter 4, this is one of those stories I return to time and time again, yet never cease to learn from her and her encounter with our savior.
This woman was a Samaritan, whom many Jews despised. She was known to be living in sin and labeled for her choices & circumstances. She had five previous husbands and when she encountered Jesus was living with a man she was not married to. The woman came alone to the well, not with the gaggle of other gals in the morning to fetch the days water, but in the mid-day after the others had come and gone.
I can imagine the weight of her shame and her desire to avoid the stares, the whispers, the assumptions of others. I picture her heart being downcast as she waits for the others to go and to return before she ventures out. The jar she carried to retrieve water may have had a despairing heaviness to it, even when it was empty, because it represented a daily walk alone.
How her heart must have sunk and pondered what to do when she saw a Jewish man sitting by the well. I wonder, what was she thinking in that moment? Was she wondering if she could turn around and come back later? Was she contemplating how much she really needed water for the day? Did she think about how the man she was living with would react if she had gone for water but had returned with an empty jar? Did she take a deep breathe and guess that this man would be like so many others who would assume and accuse her of the worst?
I can’t help but think about her empty jar in that moment. What was her jar like? Was it cracked and repaired? Did it hold water well or was it worn from years of use, on the verge of falling apart? Did she squeeze the jar a little tighter on those final steps to the well, hoping this man would just let her get her water and go?
To me when I picture this woman, and her walk to the well I think it was likely she was hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.
But not crushed. But not in despair. But not abandoned. But not destroyed.
This woman traveling to the well to get water was about to have a big fat, BUT NOT, encounter with the living savior himself, Jesus. Other men may have made assumptions, accusations, and perhaps even abused this woman. But not Jesus.
Jesus was about to meet her in the midst of her avoidance and anxiety. As she comes to the well, he simply asks her if she will give him a drink. He did not belittle her or try to stop her from her business or even ask her why she was coming at such an odd time of day. He didn’t make a command that she would serve him water.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?'” John 4:7 (NIV)
I can’t imagine, though I have tried, what was going through this woman’s mind when Jesus asked her for a drink. Did she turn and look around, doing a quick double check that he was in fact speaking to her? Did her mind go blank at what to say in response to him? Did she think he was a bit clueless about the reality of the situation?
“The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?'” John 4:9 (NIV)
I can’t even fathom where the woman would be thinking this encounter would go from this point, but I’m pretty certain she was looking for a quick way out.
I imagine that Jesus had some tender, loving, anticipation in his heart and maybe even in his eyes because he knew the priceless value of this particular meeting.
“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'” John 4:10 (NIV)
I picture in my mind the woman wondering what this man had been drinking prior to their meeting, probably not water. I feel she has a cluelessness about what on earth he was talking about.
Here’s the thing, Jesus wasn’t talking about earthly things and he was introducing this woman to something that would call the very foundations of her life into question.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV) it says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Jesus revealed his love in ALL of these ways to the woman at the well. He was patient and kind, not boastful or proud. He was not rude or self-seeking or angry. Jesus waited for her to process what she was hearing and experiencing. He let her keep asking questions and sharing where her point of understanding was. Jesus didn’t force it but let her come to it at her pace.
He acknowledged this woman’s past, not to hold it as a record of wrong above her, but to reveal that he knew all she had been through. What must it have been like to look into the eyes of Jesus and have him say he knows that there have been five husbands previous and another man now who is not even a husband?
Others may have delighted in evil and angrily throwing this woman’s wrongs against her, BUT NOT Jesus. Jesus protects. Jesus is trustworthy. We can always put our hopes in Jesus because He perseveres through it all, even death on the cross.
This woman at the well may have been hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. She came looking for water. But she left with a precious treasure.
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I who speak to you am he.'” John 4:26
The woman leaves her water jar, returns to town, and started talking to everyone to come and meet this man who knew all about her. The people went. It even says in John 4:39, “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.”
Despite whatever reputation this woman had, however her fellow townspeople perceived her, when she came back from that well there was something that made them curious enough to go to Jesus.
Maybe they all had a chance to witness how she was hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. Perhaps they also had a chance to see that even through all of that she was not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned, and not destroyed.
Instead the woman at the well had a “treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV)
Live it Out
What in your life right now has you hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down? What empty jar are you carrying around, hoping to be filled? What is the temporary “water” that you are seeking for your day today?
Not matter what fatigue, pain, criticisms, hurts, struggles, burdens, and sins you are facing there is an eternal, living water, a treasure of such great reward that it will exceed the intensity of today’s pain and will become a spring welling up within you.
Love and provision of God the Father, the resurrection power of the savior, Jesus Christ, and the inner strength from the Holy Spirit is this precious treasure.
We are able to receive this priceless gift in the midst of our earthly lives, our jars of clay that life presses hard against. Even under intense pressure we can have the hope that we will not be abandoned and will not be destroyed.
Whatever it is that is pressing into you, wearing away at you, and hurting right now, it is not eternal. You don’t have to go through it alone.
Jesus met the woman at the well with her empty jar and broken heart. I know the Bible doesn’t say she had a broken heart, but as a woman I can’t imagine having five husbands without carrying some brokenness away from that.
Jesus will meet you where you are at too. He will meet you with his love, kindness, patience, and truth so that you can trust him, hope in him, and with him persevere through all you are facing. He will give you a precious treasure. You can be sealed by the Spirit and have that treasure be a fullness within you every day.
The gifts you have, the potential that lies within you, it is a great treasure to be shared and God will give you the strength you need to press on. The currency that is received for carrying these jars of clay, joy. Unspeakable joy. Joy that sparkles like a great glittering mass of jewels.
Pray Through It
Beloved Lord, thank You so much for the loving and tender way that You seek out encounters with all of us. Even when we feel hard pressed and are trying to just survive the tasks of the day, You faithfully meet us with Your kindness and patience.
You are so generous to bestow upon us such a precious treasure and eternal gifts. Your love is an incredible reward that is able infuse our days with joy despite the intensity of our earthly pains and struggles.
Your strength makes us more than conquerors and allows us to tell all of our circumstances that we war against BUT NOT… we are not abandoned and we are not destroyed.
May we all hear You speak to us today, to remind us that You are He who gives a precious treasure so abundantly to all who hold their jars of clay. In the power and name of Jesus, amen.