I caught my breath as the measuring tape cinched around my waist.
She’s pulling it awfully tight, I thought.
Oh well, I reassured myself, I’m going to lose some weight anyway. It will be okay.
I was getting measured to order a dress that I planned to wear to my daughter Sarah’s wedding in about 4 months.
Fast forward to a little less than 3 months later (which was last week). The dress arrived, and I went to try it on. My daughter Katie, who went with me, helped me zip it up.
“I can barely breathe,” I told her. “It feels super tight in my waist.”
That’s it! I thought. Time to get serious about shedding these extra pounds!
Honestly, those “extra pounds” had been with me for quite a while, hanging out around my midsection. I knew that was an unhealthy place to carry extra weight. I felt convicted to do something about it several times, but I kept brushing it off. Maybe later, I kept telling myself.
Then came the ill-fitting dress. God used it to finally get my attention. I think God allows us to experience the tight squeeze in our lives for several reasons:
God uses the tight squeeze to shape us.
The Lord wants us to experience abundant life right here and now (John 10:10), but He needs our cooperation in that process. He teaches us the best way to live, for our own good, in His Word (Deut. 10:13). When we head off in another direction than what He recommends, He often allows us to encounter a tight spot to try to get us back on track. I have encountered that scenario many times in my life, and I am grateful for it. It shows how much God loves me. He loves me too much to let me do damage to myself without trying to get my attention and direct me into His best for me.
As far as the tight dress goes, the Bible says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20, NASB). I have known for months that my “temple” was getting run down. I had put on extra weight. I wasn’t eating right or exercising. The Lord had been gently nudging me to do something about it.
I asked the Lord to help show me how to eat better and exercise in a way that would be good for me with some of my physical limitations, and He did. I am asking Him to help me be consistent with these things, and He is helping me. (I sure would appreciate your prayers too, because this is an area where I struggle.) I’m glad the dress was too tight. It caught my attention and reminded me of what I knew all along: I need to commit to being healthier.
Yet, this whole idea goes way beyond physical health. God also concerns Himself with our personal character. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a tight place because He is shaping us spiritually. Romans 5:3-5, NASB says, “We also exult in our tribulations [a word that means pressure, distress], knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” We can become more of who God wants us to be in the tight places. This past Sunday at church, our pastor said, “So many times, we ask God to change our circumstances when God is using our circumstances to change us.”
Finally, the tight squeeze is a place where we can know God better. I never would have known He was the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3) unless I had needed comforting. I never would have known His Word as complete and utter truth (Ps. 119:160) unless it had spoken to me in the midst of my struggles. His Word reflects and is backed up by everything He is (Ps. 138:2). The Lord intends so much good for us in the tight squeeze.
God uses the tight squeeze to help others.
Other times, the Lord uses the tight squeeze to move or shape us so that we might help others. When it is time for her babies to fly, the mother eagle starts putting sharp, pointed sticks and briars in the nest. Eventually, that nest becomes so uncomfortable that the babies leave and start flying on their own. When they fly, they mother eagle stays under them to make sure they don’t fall too far or get into trouble.
In the same way, the Lord often orchestrates circumstances to move us out of a comfortable place into His plan to help others. Things become uneasy in a certain situation or relationship, or something happens to make us change. I experienced this in 1987, two weeks before I was supposed to get married. My boss called me into his office, told me they were downsizing, and said they were letting me go. It was a tight spot for me and my fiancé David. He was in optometry school, and I was our sole source of income.
Well, I enjoyed the two extra weeks I received off work for wedding preparations, and I got on the job search as soon as I returned from our honeymoon. Within a few weeks, I landed a job with Merrill Publishing as a book editor. My experiences there helped me 27 years later when my son Patrick and I wrote our book, “Optimism for Autism.” We’ve received a lot of feedback about how our book is helping others in the struggles of life and encouraging them to trust the Lord in their challenges. In never would have known how that was going to happen when I took the book editing job, but God did.
Of course, it takes prayer and seeking God’s wisdom about whether He is working on our character or calling us to move. But He tells us, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jer. 33:3, NASB), and “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8, NASB).
God uses the tight squeeze to reveal Himself in us.
Romans 8:28-29, NASB, says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” In other words, the good that God often is working out in our tight places is to make us more like Jesus, so He can be seen in us.
That’s why Philippians 2:12b-13, NASB, says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” It emphasizes to put forth effort to align yourself with whatever God is doing, because He has a plan, because He is working out something that is part of His wise and loving design. We’re told that His will is always “good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2,NASB).
So I’m glad the dress was a tight squeeze. It helped me remember God’s great faithfulness and ability to use the pressures in my life to do something big—something for me, others, or Himself (and often, a combination of the three). I wish I would have listened to His promptings about my health earlier, but I even learned something in that. He is infinitely patient and loving, a Faithful Father, who waits for me to trust and move according to His best intentions.
He says, “’ In the world you have tribulation [again, a word that means pressure, like a tight squeeze], but take courage; I have overcome the world’” (John16:33, NASB).
So trust Him in the tight squeeze beloved. He has so much for you there.
Question: How are you experiencing a “tight squeeze”, and how is God meeting you there? Comment at the link below.
John 10:10; Deut. 10:13; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Rom. 5:3-5; 2 Cor. 1:3; Ps. 119:160; 138:2; Jer. 33:3; Ps. 32:8; Rom. 8:28-29; Phil. 2:12b-13; Rom. 12:2; John 16:33