For whatever reason, I always somehow thought that this saying came from the Bible. Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to do a Google search only to find that it is actually nowhere to be found in the Bible. What I did find however, was a suggestion that the idea behind it may have been taken from 2nd Corinthians 4:17-18. And man, I had no idea I needed to read that passage. Let me explain.
Anyone that is close to me can tell you all about the nature of my current season. To say the least, it hasn’t been easy. I can’t necessarily pinpoint where it came from or when it started, but I’ve noticed a shift in my relationship with God. I wish I could say this was a positive shift. There has been an overall sense of distance and dryness lately. And it seems like no matter what steps I take or what formula I follow, nothing changes. With chagrin, I can say I’ve realized that there is no formula or 5-step plan that I need to complete. I’m beginning to see that God simply doesn’t operate in such a way. In addition to the dryness and perceived distance, it appears God has been allowing certain things to happen in my life in order to get my attention. So many of the problems I’ve encountered of late have a direct correlation with my internal weaknesses (or as I would like to start thinking of them: areas for growth). While it certainly hasn’t been very pleasant, I know it’s not in vain. This is how I know.
God Still Speaks
Back to 2nd Corinthians chapter four. Because I like to get the full context of any given Bible verse that I read, I started reading from beginning of the chapter to the end. The following three points were highlighted to me as I read:
-We are fragile jars of clay but we have such a great treasure in us (v.7)
-My life is a testimony. (v.8-12)
-Never, ever give up. (v.16-18)
I knew I’d heard the phrase “jars of clay” before, but I didn’t know it originated from this passage. The comparison that Paul makes between us as [very human] followers of Christ and jars of clay really illustrates how frail yet useful we are. Our past and even our present struggles do not dictate our identities or individual purposes. It is in these broken jars of clay that God chooses to store the precious message of salvation. That is something that still causes me to marvel. The fact that God would entrust mere human beings with such a big task is telling of what He thinks of us.
Despite the controversy that surrounds the saying “preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words”, I’d venture to say there is a tiny inkling of validity to it. When people see strength and perseverance in the face of adversity, they ask questions. They may look for the source of said strength and maybe even conclude that such a degree of fortitude is unusual or extraordinary. And that’s when a Kingdom-minded disciple puts the spotlight on God. Trials and tests are the perfect opportunity to tell someone about the constant grace and mercy of God. So as difficult and painful as it may be sometimes, I can take comfort in knowing that I am a walking testimony.
Since my life is a testimony, I am further encouraged to never give up. It’s very easy to forget about eternity when all you can see in front of you is hardship. But it’s crucial that you find ways to bring your mind back to what awaits you as a faithful child of God. There is life after death – eternal life. No matter how bad things get, know that this is not the end of the story. Our final destination is heaven. That’s why we’re instructed to focus on eternal things and not earthly, transient things. There is hope yet.
The Takeaway: Nothing is Wasted
There are some things that will happen in this life that we won’t ever understand until we see God face to face. Whenever I’m having a rough time, I try to remind myself that in the end, it will all make sense. And perhaps even in heaven, we don’t get a satisfying explanation. Even still, God knows what He’s doing and He’s good. If there’s one thing I’m currently learning, it’s that God doesn’t owe me an explanation. If I knew the reason behind everything He does or allows, I don’t think I’d be able to call Him God anymore. So when it doesn’t make sense and I can’t seem to hear His voice and I feel enveloped in darkness, I can trust that nothing is wasted. Nothing goes unnoticed or unplanned. It may be hard, but I am doing my best to have faith that it’s all for my betterment or even the uplifting of someone else. All we really have to do is take our eyes off our problems and fix them instead on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. – 2nd Corinthians 4:16-17
Go read the whole chapter, seriously!