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U R Hard Pressed but Not Crushed (when you are being squeezed)

“When you are in the vise grip,” Devi once told me, “and you are being squeezed … like a lemon, let it produce sweet juice in you – sweet lemonade, refreshing to the taste. Do not let it make you bitter.”

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I am being squeezed — as the Word calls it, “hard pressed.” Every moment is a choice to either let the vise grip grip me and squeeze out a bitter taste, or let God hold me steady in the clamps, knowing His hands hold the lever.

We all have this choice when we are being squeezed: to believe that He is transforming us to be more like Himself, that He is producing the character to match our calling; to trust that He will bring good from every hard thing.

From the vise grip can spurt anger, bitterness, and spite, because it is so darn uncomfortable, especially when we’ve been in it for a long time.

The only tool that rightens my mind when am I squeezed like this is the Word of God.

Paul writes, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” He doesn’t say bitterness and anger might be in you — he says, “They are in you, so let them be put away.”  Sometimes I wonder if He’s squeezing out the ugly so there’s more room for the beautiful. He goes on, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

He precedes these verses with a warning: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…” Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander grieve God. Just as we grieve over these sins in our nation today, so God grieves over these in us — for only He sees the clamor that happens when no cameras are rolling – even the clamor that goes on in our minds.

On our wedding day, the videographer interviewed my grandfather, asking for advice.

“Be kind to one another,” the old man in the wheelchair said. 

What is pressing you? How are you squeezed? Remember that a vise grip is a tool in the hands of a carpenter, to hold you firmly and safely there, as He shapes you into a work of fine form.

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I for one am being formed by the squeezing. It hurts, yes, and at times I’ve let it make me bitter. But bitterness has been the gall I’ve choked on till it made me spit it out, for how wretched is the taste of bitterness? 

The way to rid ourselves of bitterness is total forgiveness, as God has forgiven us. Instead of slander and wrath, we can choose thankfulness. Instead of causing clamor, we can choose the tenderhearted way, the kind way, the way sweet and refreshing as lemonade, quenching the thirst for grace in those around us.

Allow the vise grip to produce sweet juice in you. Allow the carpenter’s hands to mold you in such a way that you become all He intends you to be.

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As Jesus hung on the Cross, bitter words could have spewed from His mouth. But instead, in the vise grip of His life, His heart poured words sweet to the taste. He was true to His identity as God’s Son by being tenderhearted even in the most painful moment of His life.

Above all, He entrusted the squeezing of Himself to the One whose Hand holds the lever, and trusted that this pressing would produce goodness for those He loved.

We may be squeezed tight and it may hurt bad, but we are not crushed (2 Cor 4:8). Let’s lift up our eyes to the hills of Golgotha, where the suffering servant was crucified, but who rose to life and ever lives. From the vise, there can flow the sweet taste of grace. The gift of forgiveness. The lightened load of surrender. The allure of kindness. The joy of knowing that on the other side of the Cross, is victory.

In the words of L.B. Cowman, “Every man must go through the tunnel of tribulation before he can travel the elevated road of triumph.“*

A prayer for those who are hard pressed – fill in the blanks: God, this _______________  hurts. Help me to surrender myself your grip. Even in the squeezing, help me to relax in the vise, and do not let this trial drive me to despair, but closer to you. Meet us in our hardest moment, Jesus, and produce in us sweet fruit — joy, peace, patience, kindness, tenderhearted grace and forgiveness — so that our lives may be a testimony of refreshment to those around us.

In Jesus name, Amen.

*Cowman, Mrs. Charles E. Streams in the Desert, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI: 1996, p. 137

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About the Author: Jennifer

Jennifer Strickland is a wife, mom, TEDx speaker, and former professional model. She is the author of Girl Perfect, More Beautiful Than You Know, and Beautiful Lies, among other books and Bible studies that teach women their worth in God’s eyes. Since leaving the modeling industry, she founded URMore.org, a non-profit ministry that provides resources to hurting women and girls. Her favorite moments are found working on the family ranch with her husband, who she calls “the Cowboy”; in her kitchen, concocting a new version of her famous spaghetti; or spending time with their three precious children.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

Jennifer is a captivating speaker. She keeps the listener hanging in wonder of what’s coming next! Her presentation is not only absorbing, it reveals the truth of God’s power to heal a wounded spirit.

Barbara Brown

Barbara Brown, Former Stonecroft Ministries Regional Representative, San Diego, CA

“The ‘P’ word [perfection] may be the heaviest burden women bear. All the misguided things we do to attain it can keep us away from what we need most – the unconditional love of God the Father. The Girl Perfect Study Guide gives you a map to the wholeness you were created for.”

Nancy Ortberg

Nancy Ortberg, author and former teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church

“The Girl Perfect Study Guide shatters the lies girls and women believe and points to the ultimate truth, which really does set us free. I am confident that this study will help thousands discover a beauty, purpose, and worth that truly lasts. Thank you Jen for exposing the ‘perfect life’ and inviting girls to experience God’s ‘perfect love.'”

Allie Marie Smith

Allie Marie Smith, Founder of Wonderfully Made

One of the best testaments to what Jennifer is doing for the young girls and women of today is a comment from my eleven-year-old granddaughter: “Grammy, I want to read this book and hear her again. She’s good and I learned a lot.” This is exactly what I experienced from a grown-up perspective when I was introduced to Jennifer Strickland’s amazing story. Read it and see if you don’t get the real story from an icon model and a powerful speaker of truth.”

Thelma Wells

Thelma Wells, D.D. (Hon), President of Woman of God Ministries
As a teacher, participator, and observer of public speaking for most of my life, I’ve come to realize that many speakers make one of two mistakes when interacting with their audience (especially when that audience is mainly teenagers.) They either expect their audience to climb up to their level (which feels unattainable to the crowd) or they step down to the level of their listeners (which feels cheap and pandering.) The best speakers meet their audience where they are and lead them up to where they want them to be. This feels genuine. This is what Jennifer did over the last few days at our school.
Jennifer Strickland is a funny, engaging, dynamic speaker. She shares truth with authority and credibility that comes from both experience (her story is powerful) and an obvious depth of study in the Bible. The ideas she presents about Value, Identity, and Purpose are truths everyone needs to hear.
I heartily recommend her for your conference, school retreat, or any event where you want your people to be encouraged and challenged with deep, impacting truth.

Andrew Doan

Andrew Doan, Concord Christian Academy, Concord, NH

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