Letter (to a Fellow Jar of Clay)

Dear friend,

Grace and peace to you today! It was good to talk to you last week and hear directly from you about the difficulties you are facing. As I told you then, if I could snap my fingers and end your suffering, I would, but as both of us know, this is not our world. It is not our will that reigns supreme. I know the temptation to doubt God and be angry with Him is very real, but do not listen to the lies of the evil one. Do not let his whispers go unchallenged. Take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17) and strike back. Fight the fight of faith by taking God’s Word and using it as the weapon it is. I have prayed that God would work that in you. I have prayed that God’s voice would ring louder than the voice of doubt and despair. I don’t simply want to pray for you though – as powerful as that is. I want to do my part to help you and to encourage you so that you are not hardened by sin’s lies (Heb. 3:13). I want to do my best to point you to parts of God’s Word that you can use to fight in the midst of your struggle.

That said, as I prayed for you this morning, I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 4 and 5. I read over it and prayed for you as I did so. I prayed that its truth would sink deep into your soul and encourage you and strengthen you so that you do not quit. This is an incredible passage:

After talking about his own ministry (2 Cor. 4:1-5), Paul reminds us of the miracle we have experienced in salvation. The same God who spoke this entire world into existence out of nothing has spoken life into existence out of nothing in our own hearts (2 Cor. 4:6a). The One who filled the original darkness with light in Genesis 1 has filled the darkness of our own souls with light through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Incredibly, He has given us a clear view of “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6b). Instead of rejecting Christ and thinking of the gospel as foolishness, we now see it as the greatest demonstration ever of God’s power and wisdom. God has opened the eyes of our hearts to see the truth. He did not have to do so, but He chose to do so. We now possess the most wonderful treasure that could ever be imagined.

But then Paul offers a sobering reminder: this incredible treasure is stored in “jars of clay” (2 Cor. 4:7a). We like to think that we are strong and tough – like a lock-box or a safe, but the truth of the matter is that we are jars of clay – which are easily broken and quite weak. Why would God choose such weak vessels as us to hold the glorious treasure of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ? It is because God wanted to show “that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7b). Consider that, friend. I know we like to think of ourselves as the center of the universe, but consider that statement. God chose to save weak people – who would doubt and struggle and stumble and fear and worry – so that it would be abundantly clear that the power belonged to God and not to the people.

Listen, I know that you are feeling guilty because you are struggling. You think that if you were more mature, you would not be struggling so much with these doubts and worries and fears. But I think you are missing the point: God is not interested in you reaching a point where you no longer need Him. He is interested in you reaching a point where you see your need for Him all the more. In fact, this is His design! He chose you and saved you and is now sustaining you and keeping you so that it can be seen that the power belongs to Him!

You see, here is the encouragement, friend: there is an assumption in this text that the “jar of clay” – though weak in its own right – will survive without being destroyed. Even though we are afflicted and perplexed and persecuted and struck down, we will not be crushed or driven to despair or forsaken or destroyed (2 Cor. 4:8-9). I think we miss that point in these verses often. We are going to make it through. God is not going to allow us to be overwhelmed and defeated.

How do we know that? We know it because we are walking the same road Jesus walked. Paul says that we are suffering because we are “carrying in the body the death of Jesus”. Just like Jesus promised, we are following Him and carrying our cross (Matt. 10:38). He suffered, and we suffer. He was afflicted, and we are afflicted. He was struck down, and we are struck down. But in the end, He was victorious. Death and burial did not have the final word – resurrection did. And it is the same for us. We carry around the death of Jesus “so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:10-11). God has chosen to make us a demonstration to the world that He is greater than pain and suffering. He has chosen to make us a demonstration to the world that He is able to keep His own through all difficulty and trial.

Friend, think about this – and use it as fuel for your faith. Consider the One who went before you – even to the point of crucifixion – so that you will not believe the lie that your suffering is unusual. Consider the One who willingly laid down His life because of the joy set before Him – so that you will believe the lie that all this pain won’t be worth it in the end. Consider the One who rose from the dead – so that you will not believe the lie that this will never end. You are in the midst of the struggle and the journey, but there will be an end one day. That is where Paul goes in this passage: “he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence….this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are sen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:14,17-18).

Remember this friend: the One who raised Jesus from the dead will do the same for you one day. The mortal will put on immortality, and the perishable will put on the imperishable. Sickness and death will be swallowed up by life. This present suffering will end – it is only temporary, but the joy and peace and life to come will never end. It is eternal. The power of God can – and will – sustain you now. And the power of God can – and will – bring you safely home. Do not look only at the things you can see, because they will end one day. Look to the things you cannot see because they will never end. Right now, you carry around the death of Jesus, but the life of Jesus is in you as well. I pray that it will sustain you even in your darkest moments.

I love you, friend. I pray that this encourages you, and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

In Christ,