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Troubled on Every Side
2Cor 4:8-10 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
Paul, as he followed Christ, describes the frailty of his humanity as evidenced by his ongoing sufferings. He life was surrounded by troubles, he said he said he was troubled on every side. He was troubled, perplexed, persecuted, and cast down, and, he bore in his body the scars and wounds from following Christ.
Jars of Clay
Paul, describing his life, is telling us the Lord has not put us in vessels immune to suffering, but rather we live our lives in jars of clay and, because of our inherent weakness, suffering is a way of life.</>
He has given us human bodies, which by nature, are prone to all kinds of suffering and pain. Because of the nature of this world (we are not in heaven yet) and our ability to feel pain, which is given to us by creation, suffering is a reality we cannot escape.
Our sufferings are given to us to demonstrate a greater truth which is the life of Christ within us; our weaknesses allow us to see God who strengthens us. Paul emphasizes that even though troubled, he was not distressed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed. These things should destroy us, but they don't, and the reason - Jesus Christ dwells within us. A jar of clay can be broken, but if resurrection life is in that jar, then the jar is preserved. This is what Paul is saying-it is the life of Christ within that our sufferings demonstrate: the Life of Christ keeps us, strengthens us, and enables us to be faithful even when we should have been irreparably damaged.
Our Sufferings are Real
We may not be suffering as Paul suffered - from stoning or beatings - but our sufferings will be just as painful and just as real. Problems have a way of never ending: a painful marriage, distressful employment, ongoing health problems, disabilities, a difficult church, family problems, tragedies, reversals, etc.. Problems tend to be chronic and would leave us in despair if it were not for the power of the indwelling Christ.
Christ is Greater Than our Sufferings
Christ is greater than our sufferings, but we must experience wounds to really own this truth. Paul speaking of his wounds, said they would testify of life and not death. He said his severe trials would make known the reality of the living Christ within him. Many times, Paul should have been mentally or physically destroyed, but Jesus, not only kept him alive, but kept him from despair. The indwelling Christ gave Paul peace and optimism, while outwardly suffering. Our houses of clay are weak and experience all kinds of suffering, but when indwelt by the Living Christ, we preserver in trial, and like Paul, our sufferings demonstrate the power of God within us.
Just as Paul, we need to see the big picture. There are two ways to see every problem; my way and God's way. To be healthy we need to see our troubles from God's perspective. Suffering is not just about my pain; no, suffering is about recognizing that when I keep my faith, my suffering becomes the means to demonstrate the reality of God within us. Our faith, in the fires of suffering, demonstrates the reality of Christ within us.
Also, we understand that our sufferings are not by accident, for weakness is the context of our life and suffering is the environment that best demonstrates the reality of Christ in us. Christ could have given us bodies that would not hurt and He could have given us minds that would never suffer pain, but He didn't. Perfect Wisdom put us in a house of clay, knowing we would suffer, and also knowing that to overcome, He would have to live His life in and through us. Suffering should destroy ones life, but Jesus is greater than our sufferings, and our faith shows the power of His Life in us.
We can murmur, we can complain, we can quit, and we can look for an easier life; but if we're going to follow Christ, then Paul's words are relevant. His words tell us we will have many problems, but Christ is greater than our sufferings, and our faith while in our sufferings, will manifest the power of His Life which is in us; our difficulties will strengthen and not destroy us. No, rather than destroy us, God will use our problems and our sufferings to demonstrate the life of Jesus Christ who is in us.
So, press on dear follower of Christ, keep your faith, there are more for you than against you, God knows what He is doing. The day will come when Jesus Christ will wipe every tear from your eyes. We shall reap if we faint not.
Blessings in Christ,