When “Distressed” Defines You

“And let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” – Genesis 35:3 NASB

Years ago, my husband and I were on a hunt for a new dining room table and chairs. We had wandered from store to store for the better part of a day without success. Tired and crabby, we decided to go home. As we traveled the maze of furniture-laden aisles, searching for an exit, we rounded a corner and discovered a dining set tucked behind a collection of sofas.


The sign on the table read:

On Sale
7-piece Dining Set
Beautiful Distressed Finish

photo: Raye Wortel

photo: Raye Wortel


Marred with dents and scratches, each piece looked rough and worn as if it had been the centerpiece of a life already lived.


My husband said it looked too old, and wondered if we should buy something new that actually looked, well, new.


But I loved it.


There’s something about old things (or new things that look old) that hail comfort, dependability, and charm. Besides it fit my mood, and the way I felt about my life.


I understood distressed.


Many seasons had passed since depression arrived on the doorstep of my heart, and my mind. Like weeds spreading in a forgotten garden, depression had invaded and entwined itself to the core of my being. Every thought, word, and deed was centered on that fact.


Each morning I wanted to rise with the sun as a new person – feeling happy, connected, and alive. Instead, I fumbled in the dark searching for a “switch” that would flood my life with light in an instant.


No. Distress and I were certainly joined, and I thought it would never change.


We bought the table and chairs that day. Looking back, I can see how my motivation to have it was like building an altar to the condition of my life – like a Pharisee standing on a street corner displaying his “righteous” misery.


But once again, this steadfast and gracious God we clumsily chase after, has a way of bestowing crowns of beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3).


As I wiped away the dust and debris from the table the other day, I noticed something. There are many more scratches and dents than when we first bought it, but instead of them serving as further symbols of distress, they have become milestones of LIVING.


There are letters and numbers etched into the tabletop from when the kids were first learning to write, and they’d squeeze their pencil too hard.


The legs of the chairs have dents from being banged together when family and friends took a seat for the many feasts and celebrations it hosted .


There’s a long scratch on the table from one of the last dinners Nana shared with us before Alzheimer’s started to claim her mind.


Every mark has a story. And whether it’s a distressed table or a distressed life, God quietly implores us to define it in a different light.


His light.


Today you may feel you are defined by distress. I want to encourage you to sense God’s presence in your life, and know:


“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)


Define your life not as marks of distress, but as a living altar to God who continually answers your need.


Other verses for you to ponder:


“God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.” – (Job 33:28)


Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. – (Psalm 43:3)

4 Replies

  1. Such a timely message my friend. The fact that I loved distressed stuff too made me smile as I try and understand all the distress in my life. It reminds me that God takes me in His arms when I yield to him in my distress. He doesn’t see me as scared and wounded but as His perfect child that He loves more than I can understand and even though my tears flow He holds me up so I can press in.

    1. It may seem as if distressed living is never out of season, but thankfully it’s only based on our perceptions. However, our Lord’s attention towards us is certain and relentless. A point I’m willing to surrender to. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment today, Suzi.

  2. Devery

    Again, beautiful, in style and content, you give encouragement and paint a picture, of the necessity of distresses to add to the masterpiece of our lives. No one wants to go through them, at the time, and God forbid, actually show the marks of a “less than perfect” life, being so afraid of the world’s judgement, dubbing us as inferior in quality, and not seeing the beauty it will add to the finished work of Christ. The deadly “D’s”….despair, depression, disillusionment, distress, destruction, and departure, from the truth, six DEVILS of of a sound mind, if we choose to see as the world see’s. Dents are a beautiful thing if we give them to Jesus to use in His masterpiece….us!

    1. Thanks Devery for such a thoughful and thought-provoking comment. I love what you said about the six devils of a sound mind; never heard that before! As always, I appreciate your faithfulness to our blog.

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