Sometimes we learn best by being told something and other times we learn best by observing. In Jeremiah 18:2 we read that God instructed Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house to hear the word of the Lord, that in observing the work of the potter he would better understand God’s work with Israel.
Pottery is all about applying strategic pressure to the clay in order for the clay to form the kind of vessel the potter intends.
When a pot is thrown, the potter starts with a lump of clay. He must first wedge it, or throw it forcefully to the ground a number of times in order to get all the air bubbles out of it. Next, he must center it on the wheel using downward and inward pressure with steady hands. He uses his fingers to make a hole in the center of the lump. To create the piece he wants, whether it be a cup, a bowl, a vase, or a pot, the potter must then expertly apply pressure to both the inside of the lump and the outside, guiding it upward. If pressure only comes from within, the vessel will flop outward. If pressure only comes from outside, the vessel will collapse in on itself. It is the guiding hands of the potter that uses the pressure from both places to draw the sides of the piece upward, creating something usable and beautiful.
Watch the process for a simple pot here
We may sometimes feel we are under the strain of outward trials: job loss, financial stress, sickness, family struggles. Sometimes we may feel as if we can’t deal with the strain of inward struggles: faith, acts of obedience, spiritual discipline. But the worst thing we can do is assume we must take matters into our own hands: lean on our own understanding, trust in our wisdom.
With His hands, God brings together pressure from within and without in order for form us to His will and purpose.
Right now many of us are dealing with outward fears of what will happen to us in light of the present economic and social unrest and sickness, as well as the inward struggle of wondering where God is in all this. He is working with what comes from the outside and what we are dealing with on the inside in order to shape us. So no matter what we are going through we can trust the work of His hands. “And we know that God causes all things (from without and within) to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
It can be difficult to understand in the moment the promises of God. Sometimes we just need to observe in faith how God shapes us through life experiences. Life is hard. Growing in our faith is challenging. There is peace to be found in admitting that we can’t handle the pressure… but God can! God’s word to Israel is an import reminder to us. “Like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 18:6). May we trust our lives in His skillful hands.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me see with the eyes of faith what you are using to shape me; and to trust that you are always at work in my life, especially when it’s difficult.