Continuing with my Oswald Chambers devotions, I ran across this quote on the devotions for September 30. “You cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they are crushed.” The devotion went on to say that when we suffer a defeat in our Christian life, we cannot stay defeated. We use that defeat to be restored by the Holy Spirit into a new kind of usefulness.
I find this a very helpful idea. There are plenty of times in my Christian life when I have been merrily going along, assuming I am doing what God wants. Enjoying the fruit of the vine – eating lots of grapes. Then something happens that knocks me for a loop. An unexpected death. Someone gets mad because of something I’ve said or done. A devastating diagnosis for a friend. Prayer that seems empty and unanswered. And suddenly I wonder if I am really doing what I am supposed to be doing. The grapes lie trampled and crushed on the ground. My spirit is crushed and trampled as well.
But it is exactly in these moments that we are most useful to God, if we let him continue to work in us. When our feeling of being in charge is pushed aside, we can be open to letting God be in charge. When we feel helpless, ground down, crushed – then we can be assured of God’s care and God’s power. There have been so many times in my life when I wondered how I was to continue to go about God’s work when I felt empty. And in those times, God picked me up and put his Spirit in me to replace my own crushed spirit. Looking back, I can see his hand so clearly in those moments when I felt most defeated.
You cannot drink grapes. The times we feel confident and self-assured might be the times we are really farthest away from God’s Holy Spirit. When the grapes of our confidence are crushed, perhaps then God can really do something with us. By letting his Holy Spirit rise within us, we are letting God take the grapes, crush them, and make them into fine wine. Wine that can be sanctified to bless us and bless others.