I listened to a podcast instead of doing my usual reading [of the Bible] yesterday morning. I woke up with kind of a headache and some anxious feelings about the day (it was a concert day) and decided to cozy up with a podcast and some knitting while I drank my coffee. It was perhaps not the best anxiety-halting idea, but it paved the way for today’s reading including 2 Corinthians 4.
This chapter is where my beloved “Jars of Clay” took their name. But I never really got it before. I remember when I saw the reference (and a picture of clay jars) in a CD jacket back in the early days of my music collecting and not getting it. Even today I rolled over it at first pass. But then I saw the rest of the paragraph and I got it.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, ESV)
Clay jars are not very special looking vessels. And it doesn’t take much experimenting to realize they’re fairly fragile. Not too glorious. But the damage that happens to the clay vessels (US!) does not compare to the power and life and light of the indwelling Spirit. That God would dwell inside people – that is treasure indeed!
I was listening last night to a sermon about forgiveness and fighting “fair” in relationships and in explaining how forgiveness should be a lot easier than many Christians make it, JD Greear shared a story (parable? not sure if it was true) about a man who discovered that he was the intended recipient of a very large, unexpected inheritance. All he had to do was get to the (bank? not sure) right place and sign a document and it was all his. Next we were told to imagine he experienced some trouble in getting there (I want to say his cart’s wheel broke, but that would imply this being a very old story. I don’t remember)…nobody would expect him to get really bummed out and kick the faulty wheel and grumble about everything always going wrong, etc. No, he’d practically skip the rest of the way because his awareness of the gift shifted his perspective entirely – he wasn’t going to have to worry about anything financially ever again – he could get a whole new cart!
How much easier is it for a Christian to forgive those “smaller” things in life in light of the great gift of forgiveness we’ve been offered. The one caveat in such an example is that the weight and glory of that gift of forgiveness must first be realized before any of the smaller-forgiveness among people actually becomes easy. He referenced his own denial of being a sinner. Theologically he knew he always had been, but for some reason it didn’t shake out in practice.
Boy, that doesn’t sound familiar at all (sarcasm dripping). I can catch myself (admittedly without too much difficulty or scarcity) thinking of myself as righteous and deserving of leniency and favor. I’m so good, after all. But then the Bible speaks God’s clear, inerrant truth about the motives of the heart and the sin and all of the added sin that springs out of it is revealed: brought to light.
Anyway, I was considering pain and affliction and grief and then forgiveness (and coming from Paul I was pretty sure that any such that I suffer is small) and that God’s surpassing power might be better communicated through those setbacks hit me. That light is to be evident in the midst of trials and hard times, but not by my own will or forcing it.
This was immediately brought to real life when someone at school today (a teacher) said she’s been praying for me because I have been projecting a deep sadness. The source of the sadness I have felt wasn’t quite right, so I tried to clarify, but I’d all but lost sight of the surpassing power of God to work through these momentary afflictions and the feeling bummed was apparent. I think the bummed-out stems from the decisions I have to make, some of the decisions I have made, and just the weariness of the longest school year of my life (july 11th, if I recally correctly). I am feeling the weakness that mandates my strength coming from the Lord daily.
So yeah. I don’t have suffering and pain worked out (I haven’t gone through much of it firsthand), but I’ve got some things to chew on and a thankful heart for God’s use of redundancy (the Tedashii song “Finally” featuring Shane and Shane played in the car yesterday and I found myself getting really caught in the lyrics about the momentary troubles) today to speak to my heart about His grace, His Way, His power.