On our flight to Europe last year, I bought a pair of compression socks for the first time. I was starting to have an issue with swollen feet on long flights, and had heard that wearing these socks would eliminate that possibility. I discovered that those socks feel SUPER uncomfortable (at least to me)—really tight and confining. I couldn’t wait to take them off when we got to the hotel. Lo and behold though—zero swelling. So, the compression, miserable as it made me feel, actually served a good purpose.
I recently read about the Hebrew term meitzar. Meitzar means “narrow place, a place of compression.” It is an expression of the circumstances that can make life seem impossibly difficult—and certainly in Scripture, there were many tough spots in which humans found themselves. And that hasn’t changed much through the centuries.
For what is our world today but a giant pressure cooker? We are surrounded by pain and trouble, and it seems like everything is closing in on us—an endless cascade of natural disasters, violence, intolerance, disease. Reading or watching the news can give us a tightness in the chest, and even take our breath away. Where is the redemption in this suffering world? Is there any meaning to the struggle at all?
The expression “hitting rock bottom” seems to fit with our world situation these days. As people scream at each other across vast political divides, as babies die of hunger and men fight endless wars and earthquakes and floods threaten to wipe us all out, it’s fair to wonder how far down our downward spiral will take us.
In Psalm 118, the psalmist writes: “From the meitzar (narrow place) I called to God.” But God, it continues, answered “from expansiveness.” In other words, where and when we are feeling the most pressure, God’s response is to give us relief.
What I’m coming to understand is that, like the socks, the compression of meitzar may be necessary, may be the only way to get us to the place we need to be. An uncomfortable kind of healing, perhaps, but healing nonetheless, leading at last to the delight of wholeness and joy.
So the next time you feel as if you are in the meitzar, hang onto this thought: there is a path upward, and out of the struggle. We need to work, together, to clear that path for one another. And as we work, we need to remember. Remember what we are learning as we live through these hard times: Empathy. Compassion. Fortitude. Endurance. Grace. All gifts. Gifts the world needs so very much.
Instead of shrinking from reality, let’s try embracing it. Hugging it hard. Squeezing the lessons out of even the toughest times. Because the lessons are there to be learned. And, as we are compressed in this narrow and difficult place, let’s try staying focused on the upward path, where we will be healed. Made whole. And, please Lord, given relief at last.