This morning my husband dragged his weak body out of the bedroom and I bitterly thought to myself — but accidentally out loud — “agh, still? I don’t know how much more I can handle.” He looked at me with his glassy, fevery eyes and cocked his head in a way that was both sincerely apologetic and deeply hurt. I didn’t mean for it to come out from inside, but suddenly I couldn’t hold in the frustration that had lingered for far too long.
Every other week, for the past couple months, my husband has been beaten down by some form of cold or flu. You name it, he’s had it. Our work here involves a lot of traveling to remote places and whenever we enter back through the layer of smog and pollution that droops above the city we live in, he’s sick. After a week of recovery, we are either on the road again or mixed up in some crazy, unplanned plans and … BAM. A plague strikes again.
I’m tired. Not only of having to always be a caretaker to my husband, who is strong and fierce and independent, but I’m tired from the madness of this city. I’m exhausted from the drudging down the streets through the thickness of spiritual darkness. I’m lethargic from the church services that leave me more drained and confused than filled and renewed. I’m weary from breathing in barely breathable air and having to work so hard to figure out how to get across town.
The fruit and the joy of our ministry don’t always equal or cancel out the hardships of being here. Some days I wake up and wonder how on earth I can face it again. I wonder how I won’t crumble to pieces. I have to force these words into my mind. I have to open up my stubborn heart and let their truth pour in:
“Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair, we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed in our body,” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10 CSB).
The thing about this truth, though, is it does not promise comfort and ease. God’s sustenance doesn’t always look that way, I’ve been noticing. Sometimes I fall apart, sometimes I snap at my husband, sometimes I serve with more of an indignant sigh than a smile. Paul writes this to say that hardship and affliction are unavoidable as we walk with Jesus. By the very things that threaten to bury us, shred us apart and cause us to lose hope, by those same things Christ’s life is declared. Because while our own skin can’t always bear the weight of the burdens inside, our God can. He can carry them and He can carry us as we walk through this journey.
I am learning that I don’t have to be all put together to do this. I don’t always have to appear kept together in this unkempt world. Life is messy and sometimes it is just too much. I hope that in all those times, when I feel the weight of death, that Christ’s life is reigning through me. I hope the world can see the God that keeps me moving.
I have to remind myself that I’m not here for my own strength or by my own purpose. It is by HIS extraordinary power that I can get myself up from my rut and face another day. It is by HIS extraordinary power that in the midst of the bitterness of my flesh I can walk by the Spirit and serve out of love. And it is HIS extraordinary power that allows the death of Jesus to dwell in our bodies, so that we may loudly proclaim his life.
Our bodies, the gangly, fleshy things that they are, will never be satisfied or sustained on their own. In this field of work, those pressures, afflictions and moments of despair can feel magnified beyond measure. This is life, this is the reality of a broken world and a sinful flesh. But by the grace of God and the hope in our hearts, it will never overcome us.
Take a good hard look at how you’re feeling right now. Are you overcome with grief? Are you burdened, stressed and tired? Are you afraid of the bigness of the world around you? Rest, my friend. And know that you will not be crushed, you will not be abandoned, you will not be destroyed.