I’ve been kinda discouraged recently.
Not really sure why (I just got engaged after all). Maybe I’m just dramatic. Maybe I just need more sleep (can I get an Amen?). But I just feel like I’ve been giving, giving, giving…with little fruit to show for it. People don’t seem to be valuing my investment of time. I don’t seem to be getting any progress in discipleship. My witnessing efforts have not gone as planned. My fight against sin is struggling, and I feel a little…well, trampled.
But praise God, the Bible is always there to barge into my discouraged life with “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Sometimes it comes in the form of a friend who reminds me of a passage. Other times, it is an excellent sermon. Still other times, it’s just a passage I read in my personal time. This time, it’s all three. God must really want me to think about 2 Corinthians 4!
This “light” of God that Paul talks about in verse 6 sounds pretty fantastic for a discouraged person. But then comes verse 7:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
I am just a jar of clay. Nothing special. The kind of pot you keep hidden in the corner. An ugly color. I think I’m a pretty cracked one, for that matter. A crack pot! Oh wait…
At any rate, though I like to think I’m so talented and awesome, Paul makes it clear that I’m not the coolest thing in the world. I’m just a pot. You can call me Chip–not Mrs. Potts!
This illustration is especially vivid to me. Because I feel like I just keep pouring out and pouring out of my little cracked jar. And nothing happens. The god of this world is blinding hearts. The ministries I’m involved in don’t seem to be going well. My times of counseling or preaching don’t seem to be effective.
I identify with Paul’s paradoxes in the next verses:
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… -vs. 8-9
Afflicted. Perplexed. Persecuted. Struck down. Roadkill. Trampled. Like an already-cracked pot run over by a semi-truck. Poured out and run dry.
So I look to people to fill me back up. To put my pieces back together. I want my fiance to tell me I’m great. I want those I mentor to give back a little. I want to be loved, liked, respected, complimented, and awarded until I run over. Until my cracked pot is full.
But cracked jars can’t be filled. Shattered jars can’t hold water. As Ed Welch says, I’m just a “leaky love cup.” And I’m looking to the wrong thing to fill me up. And I’ll perpetually be afflicted and struck down and discouraged until I find the only One Who can fill me.
…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 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. -vs.10-11
The life of Christ is what I need. I need His life-giving water to fill me up. And when it does, it fixes the cracks too. Now, this means the death of Jesus will also have to fill me–I will face discouraging days and depression. Paul certainly had his share of stress. But as the death of Christ fills me, the life will fill me too.
As my friend describes it, I keep giving and giving. Pouring out of my ugly jar into lives around me. And sometimes that means “death at work in us” and “life in you” (vs. 12). It may mean I suffer as a mentor or leader in order to invest life in others. That’s okay. Because when I become empty, I don’t look to them to refill me. I go back to the never-ending sink of Christ to refill me with His life.
Only then can I have the attitude of Paul in verses 15-16:
For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.