22 kleenexes lay strewn on the floor, the culmination of two weeks of struggle, frustration, and battle. That’s not an exaggeration; I counted them. Financial pressures, unfulfilled longings, broken teeth (yep, this happened), a first date that probably won’t lead to a second, the suffering of people I love: lots of “small” things add up to make a big thing.
This morning, tears flowed freely, unable to be stemmed. The pile of tissues grew, the wrestle fierce. I also battled anger. I was angry at myself for feelings of jealousy, angry that I could not rejoice in others’ good gifts. Crying was a better alternative to throwing dishes; we all know I have that impulse.
I’ve been here before. So many times. You’ve been here with me, and I know my words sound familiar.
But my heart struggles to believe what my mind knows is true.
This week I heard it said, “Sorrowful tragedy sets the stage for surprising triumph.” (Platt) My mind says yes. But my heart is unsure. People tell me I’m strong, brave, and resilient, yet I’m not the super saint who never doubts, never questions. Granted, most waves have smoothed out, but even two years later, there are days I’m tempted to shout at God.
“When is enough, enough? How long must I be held to the fire?”
“For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver…” (Malachi 3:2-3)
Sometimes I feel like He’s forgotten me there.
I want God to relent in His severity. Being refined is a mercy, but a difficult one, nonetheless. I know the process creates beauty, increases value, and removes the dross. But sometimes I don’t care.
Sometimes I want to tell him I’m mad at him. Refining hurts.
But the words never come. Praise God, they never come. Rather, He replaces them with tears of sorrow.
“O my dear Father, how could I ever be angry with you? Who am I to be angry with you?”
So I cry a lot. I preach to myself. I bow in surrender and plead with Holy Spirit to intercede for me. And God always meets with me and brings me back. I tell myself the truth, and the Holy Spirit lodges it deep within.
“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…” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)
This treasure. God has seen fit to wrap the treasure of treasures, the Gospel, in the weakness of human flesh. Why? It reveals that the surpassing power and effectiveness of the gospel belongs to God, and not to me.
Yet for some reason, I’ve been made a vessel to carry treasure. My weaknesses and inadequacies magnify God’s strength and perfection.
What a crazy paradox! But there is more.
- Afflicted, but not crushed
- Perplexed, but not driven to despair
- Persecuted, but not forsaken
- Struck down, but not destroyed
There have been moments in the journey in which I’ve fought despair, where I have felt crushed, and destroyed, standing on the edge of a precipice about to jump.
But here is reality. I have not been crushed. I have not been destroyed. I have not been driven to despair. And I never will be.
I’ve fought despair, but Jesus always wins for me.
He was destroyed. He was forsaken. He met despair square in the eye. He was utterly crushed. This was the cross of my Lord.
As the passage continues, likewise I can say,
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
- Outer self wasting away, inner self renewed day by day
- Momentary affliction, eternal weight of glory
- Things seen, things unseen
- Transient, eternal
Affliction doesn’t always feel light and momentary, but with eternity in view, it’s a mere glimmer, a speck in God’s grand plan of redemption. God’s far surpassing power is beyond all human control or fathoming.
And He is preparing me for an eternal weight of glory. An eternal weight of glory. I don’t think I can fully comprehend that.
Therefore, by the power that raised Christ from the dead, the power that dwells in this immensely weak jar of clay, I can choose to believe.
I choose to surrender.
I choose to love the life God’s given me.
I choose to know He’s good.
I choose to believe there will be triumph in eternity AND in this life.
God triumphs amid human weakness. Sometime I think I can’t bear anymore fire, but He has not forgotten I’m there. He watches the silver intently, holding to the flame just long enough for it to be perfected.
I tell my heart to believe what my mind knows is true.
And by grace, it does.
“Sorrowful tragedy sets the stage for surprising triumph.” Watch the video from The Gospel Coalition here- God’s Goodness in Your Pain. Believe me, it’s worth the nine minutes!