Read time: 3m 42s
"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 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; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
…life [is at work] in you." (2 Corinthians 4:6-10, 12)
What if, when you feel afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, you could also not feel crushed, despairing, forsaken, or destroyed? In other words, always feeling strong, hopeful, loved, and alive, no matter what?
I think that'd be most people's definition of “peace” or “joy” or “happiness.” [#winning] Because, really, who in this world can avoid negative experiences? But to be able to weather them with strength, hope, confidence, and energy? That's what we’re all “life-hacking” to try to experience.
And here in this old theology book written to ancient Christians in a world that seems to no longer exist, we find the answer. Here’s “How To...” How to know real resilience? How to keep this perspective? How to bear up under with genuine aplomb?
It is only possible, Paul says, if we have “this treasure.” (7) Then, even though our “jar of clay” might bounce off a few more tables and floors than we’d like, we’ll be okay. This treasure, he says, gives us a “surpassing power.”
A surpassing power is a surprising power, an unexpected power, strange, paranormal, push-back against the powers pushing down on us. And it is bigger and better-than. It wins. They push, we tumble, there’s a loud noise…but we’re still intact. This is how the resilient, unflappable, forging-forward life described here works. “The surpassing power” does it within us.
But what exactly is this power? What is the treasure that gives us this power?
When we search the context we only have to go back one verse to find out. The treasure is the message that “God…has shone in our hearts.” What message has He put into our hearts, to make them so strong? “The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Let’s break this down. “Knowledge of,” means truths, facts, realities. “The glory of,” means a beautiful, desirable, awe-inspiring sight. “In the face of,” means presented to us, a clear expression involving eyes, nose, mouth, a twinkle-scruntch-smile. “The light of,” means a sudden burst, a switch flips, shadows flee.
Let’s put it back together. God has made known to us truths about how trustworthy, how worthy, He is. He has made these truths seeable to us in Jesus. When these enter our hearts, it’s like finding the light switch before walking through what felt like a dark, strange, scary room. “Oh,” we say, “it’s just the living room. That was just a coat rack and that was just a duffle bag and that was just the pillows piled oddly.”
Now let’s put the whole together. Resilience, peace, and joy, may be experienced by us at all times, in all things. But this will only happen to the extent that we have some truth about God, which we get from Jesus, in our hearts. That is, we feel it. And we feel it as a treasure. This treasure, this light, is a power that puts within us an un-crushable sense of being loved, of being okay.
And if you can endure, you can thrive. So Paul goes on, “the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies,” and, “so life [is at work] in you.” We want to survive in danger, but really we want to thrive. How does “the life of Jesus” working in you, emerging from you, sound? What would “thriving” mean, if not the ability to survive the worst, and even in those place still have the Divine Life present and presenting Jesus? He—life—is at work in us. He—life—manifests in our lives.
So what truth about Jesus is the answer to the dread you face today? What light about God does He want you to treasure today? What strength does He desire to give you so you can bear-up under today’s trials?
It’s the only strength, the only light, the only answer there is. It’s Jesus.