On Weakness, Hardships, and Clay Jars

Recently I’ve been memorizing 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 which reads thus:

“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 about in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

It struck me – Paul sure doesn’t sound like his life was easy. And I contrasted that with how we view Christianity today. It’s easy to expect that God will make our lives easy, but the first century church certainly wasn’t known for having an easy life! They were far better known for their courage and the way they endured hardships.

See, the funny thing is that life isn’t about having things easy. It’s about glorifying God. And sometimes the best way to do that is through hardship. When we have life easy and look all put-together, we get the credit; unless we verbally give God the credit, that is. But generally speaking, that’s the way it works. But when life is falling apart all around us and we stand firm and confident, praising God in the storm, THAT’S when people start noticing. “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” That’s what it means (at least, as I understand it). The treasure is God’s light in us, and we, of course, are the jars of clay. Easily breakable, unworthy to hold such a treasure, so that the power we wield will obviously belong to God and not us.

Something I’ve noticed throughout my life is that God likes to use the littlest, the weakest, the nobodies, the poor, the persecuted, to shame the biggest, the strongest, the sombodies, the rich, the persecutors. It is His joy to take the nothings and turn them into world-changers, and I think this is because of two reasons. The first is because the people watching have no alternative but to give God the glory. The second reason is because…the lowly of this earth more easily understand that they are nothing, and that they cannot do anything on their own. And when God uses them to do mighty things, they themselves have no alternative but to give God the glory.

That’s why the early church had such a reputation for enduring hardships courageously and with a good attitude. Because they understood that they were nobody special – just human beings being used by God to do amazing things. They worked through God’s strength, and because of it, the hardships of life turned into glorious testimonies to God’s power.

We are all going to go through hard stuff. Maybe we won’t be burned at the stake like the early Christians (although you never know until it happens…), but we’re going to encounter hard stuff. God doesn’t shield us from the difficulties. What He does do is give us the power to make it through. I want to be one of those people that is such a nobody that everyone can see the Somebody who gives me strength when the hard times come. I want to be so weak that any strength people see in me is obviously from God. Kind of like what Martin Luther said… “God made man out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.” Let’s be nothings, weaklings, nobodies, so that when the hard stuff hits, God can use us to showcase His wonderful strength.

To wrap this ramble up, I’ll just share one of my favorite Bible passages, 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 :

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

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