Afflicted, But Not Crushed
I am weak and weary. In the last two months, we almost had a house fire, sickness, grief on both sides of extended family, weird medical issues, multiple unexpected bills, no AC during the May heatwave…I think that’s the complete list! The last two months have been rough. Well, the last 13 months have been rough. Okay, actually the last two years and three months have been rough.
I know I’m not alone in feeling that it’s been a tough season. This is a theme for many of us. Since COVID turned the world upside down, anything else on top of that feels heavier. Then there’s the awful turmoil in the world, the shootings, the accidents, and the unending heartaches that remind us that our world is broken.
We will have troubles in this world, and Jesus himself reminds us of that truth in John 16:33. As followers of Christ we are not promised protection from loss, death, or crushed dreams. We will feel sadness and grief. We will feel the weight of the unknowns. We look forward to heaven when everything sad will come untrue and pray with great desire “Come, Lord Jesus.”
But what about today when the weight of it all is so very heavy?
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 offers beautiful hope for us when we feel like we have nothing left. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
There are many pieces of good news here! Let’s break it down:
1) The treasure is Jesus and his power, not me or my abilities. Imagine a clay jar with a little candle inside. Put the lid on, and that light is dimmed. Now imagine there is a crack in that clay jar. Even when you put the lid on, the light shines brightly through that crack. That is me … an imperfect, broken clay jar. It is his power that does anything good in me and through me, not because of anything I do. When I am at my weakest, his power shines through the broken vessel that I am.
2) We are afflicted, perplexed (oh my goodness, yes), persecuted, struck down … but NOT crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, or destroyed. Wow! I am so much more hopeful when I live in the tension that we will have hardships, but it won’t take all from us. What is our all? Well, that leads to another point in this little passage.
3) We carry with us the death of Jesus, SO THAT the life of Jesus may also be manifested in us! Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is our hope in life and death. Every day we can live as free sons and daughters because of what he did for us, and absolutely no one can take that away. And WE are doing this together! As a family of believers, we come alongside and cheer one another on to live for Christ. We support one another when life is joyous and when life is rough. We are the body of Christ and we carry these burdens together (Galatians 6:2).
How do we get rooted (and stay rooted) in Christ? First, we cling to Jesus. Read the Bible (ask a pastor or community group leader how to do this!) and pray daily. Second, say yes to being part of a community of believers. Do this by committing to going to church weekly and get into a Bible study or community group. No one is meant to follow Christ alone!
My last suggestion is one that I learned from my sweet Grandpa. Pray that the Lord would give you a verse or a song in your heart each day. Especially in moments when we are weak we need to repeat truths to ourselves. Pray back the Scripture to the Lord or sing the song to him. Proclaim it! Some excellent verses to start with are Psalm 62:5-6, 1 Corinthians 15:58, and Romans 8:28-29, and, of course, 2 Corinthians 4:7-10. Keep the verse close by writing it on an index card and keep it in your back pocket throughout the day. And some favorite hymns are “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “My Jesus, I Love Thee,” and “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.”
This world will try to take our joy and our hope, and it will if we are not rooted in Christ and allow him to be our only hope. So, my dear brothers and sisters, let’s give our weak and tired selves to the One who offers life, and allow his light to shine through. Without him we will be crushed. With him, we have hope!