Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
2 Corinthians 4:7-18 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 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 made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
Living by Faith
16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Of all the people on the pages of the Bible who knew what it was to face the harshness of life — it was the Apostle Paul. The lines that best describe Paul’s life of adversity came from the 4th Chapter of II Corinthians:
Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who 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 clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from 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 made visible in our bodies.
God’s mercy and God’s light that shines in even the deepest darkness is the treasure that we carry in simple, unadorned, fragile clay jars. This treasure is found in unlikely containers.
Moses, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, the Disciples, and Paul—just to name a few—seemed unlikely “containers” to carry the good news of what God is doing in the world and to carry a message of hope.
We must acknowledge our essential brokenness, as they did, even as we reach out to receive God’s grace in the midst of our own weakness.
We have this treasure in clay jars.” In other words, God has chosen to store the riches of heaven in fragile containers. In the first century the most durable containers were carved out of stone. A rich family might keep their prized possessions in a box made of alabaster. Clay pots, on the other hand, were a dime a dozen. In a Jewish home, if a ceremonially unclean animal like a lizard accidentally hopped into a clay pot — even if it held every ounce of dinner — there was no negotiating the next step. That pot itself was now ceremonially unclean, along with everything inside it. Everyone who touched it would become ceremonially unclean. Therefore it had to be broken — never to be used again. It was unthinkable that a clay jar should be the container of anything worth keeping.
Yet, God places heaven’s greatest treasures and entrusts heaven’s highest missions to jars of clay. Our adequacy is not the point. Our inadequacy is not the point. God’s adequacy is the point. As Paul summarizes in verse 16, “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” That’s why God’s people need never feel afraid of fragility or weakness. God is the source of all the power we will ever need. We may think that being a cracked pot disqualifies us from God’s service. But the truth is that failure and brokenness can be the very thing that prepares us to receive God’s gift of grace.
Perhaps you are familiar with the Japanese art of Kintsugi. It is the art of mending a broken bowl in such a way that the brokenness is emphasized and transformed. The artist fills the cracks with gold. The understanding is that when something has suffered damage, then is has a history and that history makes is more beautiful.
Singer and Songwriter Peter Mayer has a song that speaks to the power of brokenness transformed:
I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
That were made long ago
I have some cracks in me
They have been filled with gold
That’s what they used back then
When they had a bowl to mend
It did not hide the cracks
It made them shine instead
So now every old scar shows
From every time I broke
And anyone’s eyes can see
I’m not what I used to be
But in a collector’s mind
All of these jagged lines
Make me more beautiful
And worth a much higher price
I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
I was made long ago
I have some cracks you can see
See how they shine of gold
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster