“But, father, why is this happening to me?” It was a hard question to hear, mainly because I didn’t have an answer. I was sitting across from this precious father as he told me about the medical diagnosis of his little girl. It wasn’t good, and he didn’t understand why God was allowing this to happen to an innocent child. I held him as he sobbed.
There are no words for moments like this. There isn’t any answer that would be sufficient to explain such a tragedy. And anyone who says differently is either too callous to be in the ministry or too immature to have anything helpful to say. The best response is “I don’t know” and then be present to them and walk with them through this suffering.
Let’s face it; bad times happen in life. Tragic deaths, fatal diseases, car accidents, emotional betrayals, and the like, happen in people’s lives and they always ask “Why.” It makes perfect sense why they would ask this, but the truth is we usually have no answer. So, how do we get through tough times? How do we help others get through these times as well?
Look at our lesson today in 2 Corinthians 4:6-15:
Brethren, 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 Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent 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. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we too believe, and so we speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
St. Paul is doing his best to guide the Corinthian Christians toward spiritual maturity. And his main tool in this passage is his own life.
He begins by telling them that God has given us the light “out of darkness.” In the beginning, it was God’s Word saying “Let there be light” and now the Light is being called into existence again by the Word (Jesus) being the Light Himself. This contrast between Light and Darkness is key because when we face tragic or painful circumstances, we feel like we are “in the dark” groping for answers or trying to make sense of our situation. And Paul is telling these Christians their first and best answer isn’t some philosophical explanation, but a connection with Jesus Christ.
Then Paul reminds these Corinthians that this “treasure” (the glory of God in the face of Christ, is held in “earthen vessels.” Think of a costly medicine held in a clay jar. The medicine is more valuable than the container but the container is made precious because it holds the medicine! And even though Paul says that he is afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, and always carrying the death of Jesus in us (WOW, what a description of troubles), he refuses to allow the calamity to define his life. In light of all this trouble, St. Paul refuses to allow the trouble to overwhelm his faith in Jesus.
And he says that all of this trouble in his life is so that “the Life of Jesus may be made manifested in our mortal flesh.” I never will forget at a particularly painful and broken time in my life, someone asked me how I was able to keep going, and in a moment of inspiration I said Imagine how helpful it is going to be to someone else who is struggling to watch me not give up during this painful time.” That insight helped me so much to not give up when life really came down hard on me.
Today, are you able to make it through the hard times in life? If you do, it will be because you realize you are never going through hard times by yourself. Jesus Christ is right there with you and there are others who are praying you make it so they can have hope in their own dark times. Either way, it’s by being Orthodox on Purpose that makes all the difference when life is hard!
P.S. O Lord, I am an “earthen vessel”, fragile, and weak in many ways. When my life is hard, please help me remember You are the Light that shines out of the dark. You are the glory that I need to see to keep moving forward and not give up! Forgive me for my doubts, and grant me Your strength so others will see Your Light in my life and stay strong as well. Amen