This morning, as I was considering what to write for my devotion this week, Pastor Steve sent an email to the entire staff with this verse of encouragement:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body (2 Corinthians 4:7-11).
It really struck me in the context of many things that I have been thinking recently. As a country, we are not necessarily in the best of times. We are still dealing with the COVID pandemic, we have civil unrest in many of our cities, the economic situation, while improving, is still a huge concern for many people and we may face a wave of news of businesses closing, evictions, and a sustained unemployment rate. Add to that the reality of distance learning for many of the schools across the country, still high risk to gather together for many people, and many things we took for granted only 6 months ago still shut down or limited. Add to that an election in less than 60 days and there is a lot going on!
I suspect people are responding to all of this in different ways. Certainly some things are better today than they were in April, but for a lot of people there is a lot of stress and pain building upon previous stress and pain and there is not a clear end in sight.
I think of these words of Paul and how they apply to our lives today. All that he described can so easily describe what we are going through, not just as Christians, but by merely being a resident of the country (and the world) today.
There are certainly ways to deal with all that is upon us, many places where we can put our hope. Perhaps we place our trust in science, that a vaccine will come soon and we will all be able to return to normal very quickly (I do think there is reason for optimism on a vaccine, but I am skeptical that we will all be able to snap back quickly). Perhaps we are putting our faith in the upcoming election, that if our candidate wins things will then settle down and we can get back to normal (I personally see much of what is facing us as a larger societal problem, and one election will not be able to change that). Perhaps there are some that are just falling back to some of our old destructive habits (it is believed that relapses and overdoses are increasing significantly). Many of us are just grinding through this the best we can. For some, things are probably not all that different than before.
Whatever your station, and however you are dealing with the current circumstances, this scripture is a great reminder of where we should be placing our hope. Our circumstances are rough right now, but they are nowhere near as bad as it was for Christians when Paul wrote this letter. And what a wonderful perspective it is. And it has the benefit of being true! All that we face, being pressed, being perplexed, being persecuted, being struck down – none of those trials compare to the all-surpassing power that we have from the Lord. We carry around the power of the death of Christ with us, at all times.
My charge for Christians is that we remember this, and that we model it over the next several months. It could be a time of turmoil and angst, but we do have the power of Christ within us. We can be draw the strength of the Lord and be a steady and faithful presence in our homes, in our places of work, in our communities. Christ is with us no matter what we are facing.