I’m not supposed to be writing about suffering. I am supposed to be writing about weddings and celebrations and vacations and youthfulness and sunshine and rainbows. The things of happiness and joy!
And yet, in writing about suffering, I am also writing about joy.
I must admit that I am suffering. I do not prefer to speak of it publicly, because I know many are worried about my health. But I am not worried. I hold the promises of the Divine.
If I am honest, the Lord has been preparing me for this trial in many ways:
- I stumbled across this podcast from CORE Church in July, on the blessings of hardships and preparing for them. Even at that time, I knew in my heart that these words were for me.
- Earlier this year I was led to memorize the book of James. The word of God stored up in my heart for a time just like this. How sweet these meditations are to me now!
- James 1:2-4
- James 4:14
- I decided (by which I mean God decided for me and I reluctantly obeyed) not to make any plans for the entire month of September. Our first anniversary is on Sunday, and I am so thankful that we have no reservations to cancel, no accommodations to pay for, and no expectations to let down.
While God does not intend suffering, He is a good Father who prepares us before, comforts us during, and uses all for good.
One passage has been on my lips for the past three weeks of suffering:
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 NLT
1. Fragile Clay Jars
Nothing could point to the fragility of life like the taste of bodily suffering. When a body ceases to work the way it is supposed to, the outward is shattered. But through the cracks, the LIGHT shines through!
I covered my brokenness, bodily or otherwise, with my own accolades for far too long. With this ugly fixative filling the cracks, my life is held together by my power. When I celebrate my brokenness and admit my insufficiency, God’s great power radiates.
Ponder: What is broken in your life? Perhaps it’s your body like me, but perhaps it is something else. Are you allowing God’s light to shine through the cracks or are you attempting to mend the brokenness by your own power?
2. Perplexed, but not driven to despair.
No truer words could be spoken of my present spirit. Glory!
Yes it is perplexing that I am 23 years old, and perfectly healthy in every way, yet suddenly and inexplicably my sharp mind is dulled and my body in extreme pain.
But I am not driven to despair. Because my hope is so much greater than this broken body.
My hope is His broken body. He is the answer to every question.
Ponder: What is perplexing you right now? Have you made any agreements regarding receiving the answers? Would that agreement change if you were to look through the lens of Jesus’ broken body?
3. The life of Jesus may be seen in our bodies
I feel Jesus more than ever before. I stepped outside for the first time in a few days and looked to the heavens. I said aloud, “Thank you, Jesus,” and no sooner had the words left my lips than a powerful breeze swept in, shook my entire forest for a good 10 seconds, then utter stillness. Hey, Lord. Fancy meeting You here.
I had to go to the grocery store yesterday. I already had to leave the house for a doctor’s appointment, so I figured I might as well knock out all the unpleasantry in one fell swoop.
I am waiting in the checkout line. My head is pounding, my joints aching, and I am thoroughly questioning why I didn’t get the motorized wheelchair cart as my knees threaten to give out. For distraction, I look at the person in front of me. A woman in cutoff shorts with bedhead buying a bottle of wine and nothing else. At 9am. I subconsciously label her a dozen times.
Then she speaks to me.
“I really need your help. Do you happen to have a nickel?” I see the crumpled up $10 in her hand.
“Yeah, sure.” I dig through my coin purse awkwardly with stiff fingers. I hobble closer to her, “Here, take a dime.” The cashier rings up her bottle. She turns around again and says, “Actually, do you have a few quarters?”
For probably the first time in a few hours, I smile. Hey again Lord.
There is no greater way to wage war for the Kingdom than to show mercy in the face of your own suffering. Perhaps those quarters were a deposit in her spiritual bank. Perhaps they were fueling an awful habit. But James tells us, “Mercy triumphs judgment.”
Ponder: Where has the life of Jesus been seen in you this week? Are there any layers of your life that need to be stripped away that His life may shine through?
Thank you for your prayers. He hears and He answers before we have a need or speak a word. Choose joy today. Shine on.