Someone wrote to me recently about songs that ask God to “crush me,” “wreck me,” and “consume me,” saying,
If God can abuse his bride, yet tell her that it is for her good, of course a husband can do that to his. And both blame her for not trusting.
This reminded me of the popular teaching that just as the sweetest perfume comes out of crushed roses, God wants to crush us like a rose so He can make perfume like that. (<– Several links there.)
As if somehow our lives would become more pleasing to God if He crushed us.
And apparently, from the songs she was referencing, that’s a pretty popular notion.
Does the Bible ever compare the people of God to a flower?
Not unless you count the lilies Jesus pointed to when He said this in Matthew 6:28-30:
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
He compares us to other plants, too. The people of God are compared to trees that bring forth good fruit (Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17:8), wheat that multiplies (Matthew 13), and branches of a vine that draw their life from the vine (John 15), which I talked more about here.
But God’s people aren’t compared to roses that need to be crushed for fragrant perfume any more than they’re compared to eggplants that need to be sliced and cooked for delicious ratatouille. It’s just not there, and nothing that resembles it is there.
What the Bible actually says about crushing
God the Father did crush, or bruise, His Son in order to secure our salvation, according to Isaiah 53:9-10 when the prophet, clearly speaking of Jesus, said,
And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief. . . .
I talked more about that in this post, “Do you pray for God to ‘break’ you?
But the crushing was done in Jesus Christ so that it doesn’t have to happen to us. He took it FOR us. The Bible never says God the Father will crush those who have come to Him through Jesus Christ—in fact it’s contrary to His Father’s heart.
The Bible does talk about God’s people being refined like gold through trials, and our faith being tried and strengthened (I Peter 1:6-7; I Peter 4:12-13; James 1:2-4,12). But this is very different from being crushed to make perfume.
In fact, when it comes to crushing, this is what the Bible has to say about the Lord’s heart toward His people, in Psalm 34:17-19:
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
What the Bible actually says about fragrance
The sacrifices in the Old Testament were designed to be a sweet-smelling fragrance to God (for example, Exodus 29, Leviticus 1, and Numbers 29). The ultimate sacrifice, Jesus Christ, was a sweet-smelling fragrance to God (Ephesians 5:2).
Paul also spoke of himself and his compatriots as a sweet-smelling fragrance:
II Corinthians 2:14-16 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
Do you see that this reference to being a sweet fragrance has nothing to do with being crushed? It’s not even about our lives somehow becoming pleasing to God. It’s about spreading the sweet-smelling gospel.
God’s people can be a sweet-smelling fragrance to God without being crushed because we are in Christ, all our life is in Christ. We don’t have to be crushed to be pleasing to God, because Jesus Christ has borne all the crushing that needs to be borne. Jesus Christ is the sweet-smelling aroma to God.
Just to be crystal clear, your “pleasingness” to God, your winning of God’s smile of approval, does not come through being crushed into perfume. It comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus has already done it all.
What the Bible actually says about people who hurt other people
The saddest thing about this wrong teaching is that there are people who love God who have been taught to think that the crushing being done to them by another human being—the cruelty they’re experiencing, even sometimes at the hands of those who claim to be servants of God—is somehow from God Himself, so that He can “crush them,” “wreck them,” and “consume them” in the process of making them into sweet perfume.
On the contrary, though, the truth is that God is opposed to the wicked who harm others, and many Scriptures attest to that. (A few are II Samuel 22:28; Psalm 10:17-18; Psalm 11:5; Psalm 37:9; Psalm 140:12; Psalm 103:6; Proverbs 6:16-19; and II Timothy 3:1-5.) When those who claim to be servants of God harm others, we can see God’s attitude toward them by reading the scathing warning He gives the leaders of Israel in Ezekiel 34.
What’s the good news?
Here’s the joy for the people of God. Jesus Christ bore all the crushing that needs to be borne in order for the lives of His people to be a sweet-smelling fragrance before God. It is all accomplished for us in Christ.
Now instead of crushed roses, we can be like trees planted by rivers of water bringing forth fruit. We can be like branches drawing our strength from the Vine.
God is opposed to the wicked who would oppress the defenseless. He always views that crushing as wrong.
Though there is suffering in this life, some of it severe,
- God provides a way of escape in times of testing (I Corinthians 10:13). He doesn’t want us to suffer passively, but to escape cruel and dangerous situations if possible, as David escaped Saul.
- But even as we do that, we can be thankful in the midst of suffering for doing right, because through it we will become stronger and develop stronger character, and with that stronger character will come the anticipation of God’s continued work in us and His love poured out in us (Romans 5:2-5).
- In our afflictions, our Lord provides comfort so we can then in turn comfort others (II Corinthians 1:3-4). And the glory that is to be revealed in us is greater than any suffering we endure (Romans 8:18, II Corinthians 4:16-17).
Instead of thinking about how our God needs to crush us in order to make perfume, we can remember that He is perfectly pleased with those who are in Christ, He weeps with us in our suffering, He comforts us in our afflictions, and He strengthens our faith as we look to Him in the midst of trials.
That’s good news.
Rebecca, this article would make an excellent presentation at one of our conferences.
Thank you! Is that an invitation, or are you saying you’re going to swipe it?? :o)
Great stuff, Rebecca! Planning to share this on my Facebook page. Went to look for a “crushed rose” image to use with it, and I found this:
The comments on the post are also interesting. Thoughts?
Going to go exercise and ponder before I share your post. Thanks for your writing.
Another point that should be made; no husband is actually God! God has the right to say when a human life should end. If a man decides to end a human life he is a murderer. If I ever marry I will love and honor my husband. But he had better not expect my worship. Only God deserves our fear and worship.
I don’t remember hearinf this analogy.. But I often have heard of ‘the oil press’, comparing our trials to Jesus and his suffering in the garden of Gethsemane (Gat shmanim = Hebrew for ‘Oil press’) and how the various hardships are supposed to crush us, reveal what we are really amde of, and in the best case, bring forth the ‘anointing’…
I find that iffy too. Trials often do reveal our inner character, but Jesus never said we should pray to have more of them. If anything, He taught us to pray ‘lead us not into a trial’… Overwhelming hardships and trials of life can crush one and cause real damage to one’s faith, and I believe many of us have gone through things God never intended us to go through.
The sad side is of course the lack of compassion when in the midst of such trials: the reactions from well-meaning Christians often being, ‘See, God is refining you’, apparently freeing them from any duty to show kindness, love, or compassion towards the suffering sister or brother.
Yes, absolutely. This right here: “The sad side is of course the lack of compassion when in the midst of such trials: the reactions from well-meaning Christians often being, ‘See, God is refining you’, apparently freeing them from any duty to show kindness, love, or compassion towards the suffering sister or brother.” Exactly.
Jesus died so that we can live but we also have to die to ourselves so that Christ may live in us. I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live and the life that I now live I live by faith in the son of. God who loved me and gave himself for me. That is the crushing. Jesus didn’t die so that we don’t have to, Jesus died so that we don’t have to live eternally in hell. He still expects us to pick up our cross daily (die to ourselves) follow him. That doesn’t give abusers the right to crush their wives it means they must also die to themselves in order for Christ to live in them. In order for them to love their wives they must also lay their lives down for her as Christ did for the church
But there’s nothing in the Bible about dying to self, unless you’re talking about the one time we were crucified with Christ when he died and was raised and we died and were raised with Him. I wrote a series about that, which begins here: https://heresthejoy.com/2017/07/dear-christian-your-marriage-is-not-supposed-to-kill-you/
Wait, but what about these?
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.
As far as I can remember, every one of those Scriptures is addressed in that series about how God doesn’t call us to daily die to self. The first in the series is linked above.
One doesn’t have to pray for trials. We live in a fallen world for now with the power of the prince of the air. Trials will come just as the bible says offenses must come. And yes trials do make us stronger, wiser, and if we continue to wait on the Lord in our trials, it produces a sweet smell. We learn to rest in him and cease from our own fleshly/carnal works. This is what it means to die to self. In him we live, in him we move, and in him we have our being. We can have joy because the Fruit of the Spirit helps us rise above our circumstances. We fly above the clouds like an eagle. The clouds are often still there. The Lord will not allow us to be consumed in our trials. But the crushing of our wills that his will be realized in our lives is real. But count it all joy ! This is the context.
Trials in and of themselves do not make anyone wiser or stronger. (Many, when they experience trials, especially at the hands of those who claim to serve God, actually turn away from God as a result.) It is *faith* in the midst of the trials that make a person stronger and better, resting in Him, trusting in His Holy Spirit, etc.
In regard to dying to self, I’ve done a series on that topic that goes to the Bible to refute the modern conception of it. The first post in that series is here: https://heresthejoy.com/2017/07/dear-christian-your-marriage-is-not-supposed-to-kill-you/
I do not want my will crushed–I want it strengthened. But I want it strengthened *in alignment with the will of God.* That is what He promises when He says He will give us a new heart and when He tells us to walk in the Spirit and thus not fulfill the desires of the flesh.
When I work with people who have been sex trafficking and violated in horrible, unspeakable ways, I tell them, “The violation of your will is the work of the enemy. But our Lord Jesus is a gentleman who will not violate your will. You have a choice as to whether to follow Him or not.”
A refreshing and welcome perspective. Thank you, Rebecca!
Nice article Rebecca, good points.
I came across your article looking for the name of the people God had named after a flower that smelled sweet when crushed. He had named them so because they only worshipped him during hard times.
Also I like the comment about men not being God, we don’t have the authority to punish or abuse our wives. When I married my wife, we became one. It takes a team to make a family function. Things are off balance when one tries to control the other. I say it like that because it goes both ways.
God is attracted to death and often times there is pain and suffering in death. Jesus spoke of our suffering in great detail. I wish it were a happy go lucky seeker friendly message but the message of the cross is bloody and gory and Christ himself said consider the cost. To teach God does not allow us to be crushed to know him closer is also dangerous. Not trying to stir the pot here just speaking from my heart.
God is attracted to death? What a strange thing to say.
Yes, there is often pain and suffering in death, and also in life. This does not mean that God is the one who crushes anyone.
Happy go lucky? Why would you wish that for the Christian life when there are so many souls suffering and dying for lack of the truth spoken with love?
The message of the cross is that our Lord Jesus Christ paid all the price for our sins through the shedding of His blood so that we can be reconciled to God. This has nothing to do with God crushing His children.
Yes, we should consider the cost, because the cost is great to be a soldier in the army of the Lord to rescue lost souls from the kingdom of darkness and bring them to the Kingdom of God’s dear Son.
Certainly people are crushed–as this blog post describes–but the position I express here is that God is not the one doing it, but evil people. Even in spite of their evil, God can still make beauty out of ashes and give the oil of joy for mourning. He brings healing to the places that have been shattered, and we can then “know Him closer.” I do praise Him for that.
I totally agree with your comment. God is love but God is also a God who angers, pours out his wrath and punishment even upon his children. I am a person who has experienced God crushing me in the midst of my rebellious state to draw me into the knowledge of the truth and closer to his heart. If it were not for his crushing and breaking of my will, I would not have come to know the God of love that he is.
To say that God does not crush people to know him is a lie and not truth. I am one who can confirm that he does this to whom he chooses for his own purpose and plan.
The crushing breaks the stubborn will and God knows what he is doing when he does it. God is not perfectly pleased with all of his children as many are walking contrary to his will and doing things unpleasing to him, so he has to correct, punish and make coarse corrections to get them back on track if they are willing to yield to his will and obey what he commands.
[…] three of my posts: “In which I have a small argument with a Puritan about suffering,” and “Does God crush you like a rose to make perfume?” and “Do you pray for God to ‘break’ […]