Pressed on Every Side (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 1, 2015)

I heard a pastor give an illustration about coffee, which resonated with me – perhaps because we’re expecting highs in the low- to mid-40s for the next week, plus up to 2 ft of snow this weekend. A cup of hot coffee sounds fabulous to me, under those conditions!


The pastor talked about how we are the coffee beans, life is the hot water, and the resulting brew is our testimony to the world. We’re supposed to be smooth and refreshing, but unfortunately, many of us turn out rather bitter.


As I mulled over that illustration, a few more thoughts came to my mind. First of all, you don’t make coffee with whole beans. The beans have to be ground up first; they have to be broken. Psalm 51:17 (NLT) talks about offering our brokenness to the Lord. It reads, “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Like the coffee bean, we need to be willing to become broken, so that we can be useful. David writes in Psalm 141:2 that our prayer is like incense to the Lord. Think of how delightful a newly opened package of coffee smells; in the same way, our lives can be an aromatic offering to God.


Another step in making coffee (and often in the Christian life) is pressure. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV), “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” The hot water soaking in and pressing through the ground coffee beans is what gives flavor to the brew.


Lastly, there isn’t a lot that can be done to fix a bad pot of coffee. You can add sugar and cream, even flavors, to try to mask the bitterness, but it’s difficult to balance, and it never tastes quite right. May our lives not become a bitter brew! Instead, may we be a pleasing reminder to the world of God’s goodness.

Black Jellybeans (Prayer Devotional for the week of May 18, 2014)

It takes a lot of courage to play the kids’ game of “Open your mouth & close your eyes, and you will have a big surprise!” You could end up with a delicious caramel or a licorice jellybean. (Unless you actually like black jellybeans, in which case, more power to you. Just thinking about them makes me want to gag.) I’ve been on the receiving end of one too many yucky surprises, so I am reluctant to play the game anymore. The trust just isn’t there.

Isn’t that like life, though? Sometimes we go through phases that feel like we’ve been given one bite of bitter licorice after another, so we lose trust and decide that God must not have our best interests in mind, after all. Jeremiah 29:11 is a popular verse, which reminds us that God has a purpose and plan for us. However, if you read the verse in context with the rest of the chapter, it illustrates this notion of choices and tricks very well. The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah while the Israelites were in captivity in Babylon. God tells them straight up that they might as well make the most of their situation, since he intended to leave them there for 70 years because they had turned their backs on him and followed false prophets, instead.

Granted, I don’t think that God plays tricks on us for a good laugh, but I firmly believe that he often lets us experience the consequences for our own choices. It might sound like a silly analogy, but we can’t expect to hang out with people who love licorice, keep candy jars full of black jellybeans in our homes, frequent the candy store, and then have the gall to complain about the licorice.

Sometimes we go through unpleasant times simply because we didn’t bother to step off the path that took us there.

Hopefully any trials that you are experiencing are more along the lines of icky jellybeans than decades of exile, but regardless of what your “Babylon” circumstance looks like, heed the instructions of Jeremiah 29:7: “And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray for her, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.” Don’t wallow in your misery and feel sorry for yourself; strive to make it better, and honor God through your efforts.