“But this beautiful treasure is contained in us—cracked pots made of earth and clay—so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us. 8 We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. 9 We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. “
~2 Corinthians 4:7-10 VOICE
As a young mother of four stairstep children, I copied out these verses and taped them to my bathroom mirror for encouragement.
I knew Paul was talking about his own hard times and troubles as he carried the Gospel to those who hadn't heard, but I felt certain God would allow the words to minister hope and life to my fragile, worn out heart even if the pressure was coming from another place.
And He did.
Paul’s words became a touchstone I returned to many times over the decades between those early years and one very, very awful day.
When a deputy rang my doorbell in the wee hours of April 12, 2014 I was startled from sleep, unsure of why he was there and generally confused until the words that shattered my heart fell from his lips.
My third child would never be coming home again.
I can't claim that my mind went immediately to a holy place. I didn't rush into the arms of Jesus or feel overwhelmed by supernatural peace.
I simply felt overwhelmed.
In a little while-maybe ten minutes or so-I remember taking the hands of the two children who were with me and saying, "We will survive this. This will not break us. This will not end us."
Even though I didn't realize it at the time, I was reminding my heart of the truth I'd been clinging to for all those years: We might be cracked and chipped, but we would not be crushed. We might be confused, but we were not abandoned. We were definitely knocked down, but we would not be destroyed.
That night was only a beginning. I didn't have the tiniest clue how much more challenging, painful, desperate and frightening things would become and how often I'd have to return to these verses.
Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I clung tightly to the promise of preservation in those verses. Now, I am drawn just as much to the promise of pain redeemed.
Paul never pretended that all those trials didn't scar a heart. He never shied away from giving details about the suffering he endured. He never suggested that death wasn't real or awful or hard.
I am not the woman I once was. Child loss has chipped away at my edges, poked holes in my self-sufficiency and revealed oh, so many fragile places.
Pain has definitely left its mark.
It's tempting to try to cover up the tattered edges of my worn out soul, but I'm convinced I'm a more authentic herald of the Good News precisely because of the loose threads and broken bits.
This journey is a hard one. There are no shortcuts, no detours, no easy paths through the tangled briers and over rocky steppes.
But my Shepherd King never leaves me.
I think sometimes our desire to demonstrate the power of Christ in our lives makes us long to tie things up into a perfect package.
I know I do-I want desperately to be able to say that I can see the good that can come from Dominic’s death. I long to be able to point to a finished monument of redeemed pain and restored joy.
But I’m compelled to tell it like it is.
And it is just plain HARD.
But God uses the broken things of this life to display His glory.
Because then there is NO DOUBT as to the Source of strength. He leaves no room for boasting.
He declares His power and faithful love by taking those of us who are weak and stumbling and leads us home, redeemed and victorious.
“For look at your own calling as Christians, my brothers. You don’t see among you many of the wise (according to this world’s judgment) nor many of the ruling class, nor many from the noblest families. But God has chosen what the world calls foolish to shame the wise; he has chosen what the world calls weak to shame the strong. He has chosen things of little strength and small repute, yes and even things which have no real existence to explode the pretensions of the things that are—that no man may boast in the presence of God. Yet from this same God you have received your standing in Jesus Christ, and he has become for us the true wisdom, a matter, in practice, of being made righteous and holy, in fact, of being redeemed. And this makes us see the truth of scripture: ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
I Corinthians 1:26-31 PHILLIPS