American Christians often struggle with the notion of adversity in their Christian walk. I know that here in Colorado, with the great amount of flooding and destruction that’s happened, many wonder where God is in this. Some wonder what kind of God would allow this to happen. Others, as one prayed so eloquently in our service at church yesterday, see it as a reminder of God’s power in this fallen, cursed world.
The Apostle Paul describes his ministry as that of having the “treasure” of the gospel in clay pots—that is, in our fragile human bodies—which puts God’s incredible power on display (2 Corinthians 4:7). Then he goes on:
8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:8-10, ESV).
Our life is fragile. We do all we can to avoid this simple principle of life, but it’s true. No matter how well we eat, no matter how much we exercise, no matter how many vitamins or pills we take, we find out in a hurry that life is fragile.
We are fragile physically. Everytime we watch a football game, we see that these specimens flying at each other on the field can do some damage. No one is immune! Not a quarter goes by where someone isn’t limping, isn’t having their ‘bell rung,’ or any other physical issue. The mildest car accident can cause an injury to the neck or back that can linger for years. Some are struggling with physical illnesses. We don’t need any reminders of the fragility of our physical bodies.
We can be fragile emotionally. We hear men and women who return from combat with post traumatic stress disorder who struggle to adapt to civilian life. We hear of teenagers who take their lives because their parents divorced or their boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with them. We hear of those who fall into addictions to escape either their situations or themselves (either sexual or substance addictions).
We can be fragile spiritually. Every one of us is looking for meaning and purpose in life. This is a spiritual issue. Everyone of us at one point has asked themselves, “Why am I here? Where do I belong? Where is life taking me?” This brings an understanding of how finite our lives are, but also can be beneficial! We realize that this is not all there is, but we also begin to see where the true treasure lies—and that treasure does not come from us.
In looking at gospel gripped character, we look at the next trait—humility. In our culture, as in most cultures, humility is a sign of weakness. Being humble is the equivalent of milquetoast, ho-hum. If you were to pick a cartoon character, we would likely think of Eeyore. But that’s not the case in God’s economy. Humility and meekness are strengths. The opposite of humility is pride—pride is destructive because of its reliance on self to find answers and solve problems. Pride is the source of all idolatry—for pride sets up one’s own self as god. You are the center of the universe—the world admires this, until you get in the way of someone else’s universe.
A number of years ago while governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura said that “Christianity is a crutch for weak people.” But we have to remember that recognizing your weaknesses is a sign of strength—ignoring them is bad.
Sam Storms helps us sort through how we as believers should interpret adversity:
Sadly, many Christians encounter the obstacles and trials that Paul has just described and draw far different conclusions about their source and design. (1) Some deny they really exist. Such people are not optimistic: they are simply unrealistic, or perhaps they fear that to acknowledge weakness and hardship and turmoil would be an admission of sin or immaturity. (2) Others despair because they exist. They encounter something similar to what Paul endured and immediately conclude that God hates them or has abandoned them, so why bother trying. (3) Some insist such calamities are demonic. All such trials and tribulations, so they argue, are from Satan, not God. (4) Finally, others, like Paul, see them as divinely ordained, instruments used for God’s glory.
How do you view such adversity and suffering? May we view them as a way for us to not rely on the things this world has to offer, but of the life that’s found in the death of Christ. And may His life put our selfish aims to death.
Sam Storms, 2 Corinthians 4:1-18. Accessed 13 September 2013; available at http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/2-corinthians-4:1-18 [on-line]; Internet.