Yesterday was a very stressful day for me. It was one of those “if it could happen it did happen” kind of days. Everywhere I turned I felt like something else was pressing in on me. I ended my day curled up on the couch with a box of cookies. I make no excuse for it, I completely stress ate my way through a night of Netflix! I woke up this morning completely regretting the box of cookies, and feeling down on myself. I had made an emotional mess out of yesterday.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show us 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;” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 ESV
The beginning of 2 Corinthians 4 reminds us that we have been given a ministry, a ministry to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world. Ministry looks different for us all. Some of us do that through actual ministries within the church, some of us do that in our homes as moms and wives. Some of us work in the world and through our day to day interactions we share who Jesus is. Every single one of us has a ministry, a calling to share Jesus Christ with others. You don’t have to have a title and a successful church to make that happen. You just need to live your life the way He has called you to live it. With this ministry comes troubles and trials, happenings that make us want to give up. Days that make us want to stress eat our way through the junk food isle at our local grocery store.
But Paul encourages us that we should not lose heart. Why is it so important for us to remember not to lose heart? Because the power we need to live each day is from God and not of us. We have this treasure, this ministry of sharing the light and love of Jesus Christ in jars of clay to remind us how fragile we are and how desperately we need Him. Yesterday was a reminder to me that this ministry I have (the business I own) is hard. It tests me, and tries me and causes me to despair many times. There are days I just want to give up, curl up in a little ball of emotion and eat cookies!
Do you believe that God is sovereign? Do you believe He has foreknowledge, that He knows the end from the beginning? Do you believe that everything happens according to His knowledge? If I say I believe that then, if I make a mistake, wouldn’t the Lord be aware of that mistake ahead of time? If you believe God your Father has foreknowledge, then why do you think He is not aware of your bad choices, bad decisions and stupid mistakes? He knows your thoughts before you think them! (Read Psalm 139) He is not caught off guard by what we do, think or say. He already knew you were going to do them! He has planned this path for you, He has plotted your purpose, all you need to do is trust His ability and power to bring you through!
Stressed out is not a place I like to be. I like peace, I like normalcy; unfortunately, my life as a business owner doesn’t always promote that! The first word Paul encourages us with in 2 Corinthians 4:8 is afflicted. You probably don’t see this word as encouraging, but I sure did! Paul writes that we are afflicted in every way, we find ourselves under pressure from everything around us. We feel like we are being squeezed and twisted and pushed into every direction. We are stressed out! Paul isn’t saying that we shouldn’t ever feel this way, but that when we do feel this way we need to remember we don’t have to remain in it. We have the power of God and His ability to bring us through the stress. It’s living on the inside of us. We can take a deep breath, and trust that He who brought us this far will carry us through to the end! Do not lose heart!
Paul now moves onto another feeling that many of us experience in our day to day lives-perplexed. Perplexed is described as not knowing which way to go. It is to be without resources, or to find yourself cast in doubt. Perplexed is scratching your head and not knowing what you should do. This describes me every single day! I am always praying and seeking God for direction. Which way should I go, what should I do, how should I handle this issue? Repeatedly I find myself perplexed. Yesterday was no exception, it just all came at me at one time. Paul says to us that even though we are perplexed, we are not in despair. We are never left without a way. We are never left alone to figure things out for ourselves. God our Father is only a cry away and He will always give us the direction we need and the answers we seek. They may not be what we want to hear, and sometimes we may choose not to listen. But even in those moments, we are not left utterly destitute. We always have hope.
Persecuted. I remind myself that living in America, I do not even have a clue as to what it means to be persecuted. But the word Paul is using here has a little bit different connotation to it and I think, for me personally, I feel this way often. Paul uses the word persecute as being driven away, alone. Do you ever feel alone? Do you ever feel like you have been driven away from God and He has turned His back on you? I have. In fact, yesterday as I was crying and feeling thus way; I wanted to call a friend of mine. But I didn’t because my friend is dealing with some rough stuff of her own and I didn’t want to burden her. This made the feeling of being alone even more strong in me. I felt persecuted, driven away. Praise God that no matter how alone I feel, I am not forsaken!
No matter what our circumstances are, no matter what stupid choices, decisions and mistakes we make, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God that we have in Christ Jesus. Nothing can drive us away from God. He has never left us and He will never forsake us. That is a promise that we can cling to. When you feel alone, remember that you are not. He is always with you, without end.
Lastly, Paul uses a term that most boxers would be familiar with. He uses the words, “struck down”. Picture a boxing ring; you and your fears, stresses and anxieties of your day are going at it. You catch a right hook and you fall to the ground. You have been “struck down”. However, even though you got knocked down, you are not destroyed. You are not out of this fight yet. You get up and you go back at it. You are not rendered useless by God. You are not put to an end. You just got knocked down. Nothing that comes against you can destroy you because you have the light of Jesus Christ within you. His life, His power, His strength, His wisdom, His love, His hope, His might; it’s all inside you.
I might be afflicted from every side, but I am not crushed, because I know He has made a way for me. I am not despairing because I know He has a purpose for me. I am not alone because I know He will never leave me nor forsake me. I may be knocked down, but I know in Him, I have the final victory! We may experience all these emotions in one day, but we can take comfort, strength and courage in the eternal hope of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Life may knock me down, but I have a God and Father and Savior standing in my corner, helping me get back up! Amen!