But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing 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 we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Evidently Paul has experienced a lot of traumas.
- He was “afflicted in every way”: physically, mentally and emotionally. Such affliction would crush most of us. But not Paul: “we are afflicted…, but not crushed”.
- He was “perplexed”: experienced a lot of losses. When we loose wealth, health or space, we also loose hope. Yet, Paul says, that all those losses didn’t lead him to despair.
- He was “persecuted”. Persecution is a violent way for the society or community to isolate, cast out, marginalize or punish a person or a group of people. It comes with loneliness, isolation, separation and with the feeling of not being understood, or not belonging. A persecuted person will always feel forsaken, left alone, cast out, not wanted, but not Paul.
- He was “struck down” meaning pushed down, oppressed with the purpose of being destroying. Regardless of all the oppression and pressure, Paul was not destroyed.
Living in a traumatized world, what hope Paul offers to overcome such traumas?
I have my fair share of traumas in life. Some are still impacting me today and are influencing my reaction and view of life and people. The way Paul went through traumas, helps me to face mine. Here is what I’ve learned from Paul’s cited writing on how to maintain mental, spiritual and emotional health in the midst of traumas and what should our stand, as believers be as we see traumas in our world.
(NOTE: Professional help needs to be given to those who are seriously traumatized. The following are just a few observations from Paul's personal description which I found helpful and encouraging as I face my own traumas. In no means the following serves as a substitute the necessary professional treatment.)
1. Embrace that you are infinitely valuable and treasured in the midst of your brokenness.
“We have this treasure in jars of clay” – says Paul. Changing the way how we think about ourself is critical to overcome any traumas. Many times when we are traumatized we feel devalued, betrayed, lost, forgotten, worthless, lonely, depressed and hopeless. When trauma happens, our sense of personal value and territories (belongings, body, space, health, etc.) are brutally violated which many times followed by the feeling of being worthless. A special knowledge that comes from an outside source needs to change our thinking about ourselves. That’s what has happened to Paul. “This knowledge” equipped him with the conviction that he has a special value, a “treasure hidden” in “this jars of clay” (v.7.). He knew that his body might just be a fragile jars of clay, but that broken, fragile body contains an infinite, incomparable value. He didn’t identify his value with the brokenness and fragility of his body. This treasure was not a product of his own self, but it was given to him from an outside authority. He identify this treasure this way: “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v.6b). Basically he is saying this: “I have received the knowledge that I’m valued, I’m special, I’m worthy, I’m treasured because the Son of God has died for me. No-one would die for something worthless! So I’m so valued and treasured by the God of the Universe, that He was willing to sacrifice the life of His own Son!” A key step to overcome a trauma is to embrace the reality that you are loved, valued and treasured by your Creator and Savior, regardless of what what you’ve went through, what your nationality is, who your parents were and what your talents are.
2. Embrace the power that is given to you to overcome the trauma.
A “surpassing power that belongs to God” (v.7.) is available to us as it was available to Paul. This knowledge (that we are valued and treasured) is not only an intellectual position, but a life-changing power. There is power in the knowledge that God treasures us. Power can be given to us not to be crushed when we are going through afflictions, not to be hopeless or paralyzed when we loose things or relationships, not to feel lonely when we are forsaken and not to be destroyed when we are pushed down. The more we embrace how God views us, how He loves us and values us, the more powerful we become to overcome our traumas.
3. Look up to the Cross and see the traumatized Son of God.
Paul talks about how he carries the death of Jesus in his body so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in his body (v.10). There are so many traumas we can’t explain and can’t find reasons for it. There are so many injustices that happens to people. Too many times we see that evil people are having a great and easy life and good people suffer out of proportion. If there is any hope in this unjust, unfair world, than this is it: our Creator is not a distant spectator who doesn’t care about our suffering, but He became just like us and voluntarily endured the most horrific injustice and was willing to be tortured to death. The absolutely innocent, infinitely perfect and good God was willing to be tortured and traumatized by His own fallen, sinful, wicked creatures. That’s the biggest crime and most outrageous trauma humanity ever committed! On the Cross we see a traumatized God!
The ultimate hope in our traumatized life and world is the traumatized God on the cross!
He walked in our pain and losses! He identifies with our sufferings! He knows our despair. (Phil 2:7, Heb 4:15, Is 53:3) He experienced all of it so He understands it! He wants to bring the good news to the poor, he cares for the needy and for the outcast. (Is 61:1-2) He is upset and angry when He sees injustice, corruption and abuse (Is 1:17. 23b. 3:15). He is ready to act. He wants to bring justice (Is 5:7), wants to bring comfort, wants to wipe away all tears. And one day He promised to do that. (Rev 21:4) But until that day, the Church is God’s hand to wipe away the tears of the broken. The Church is God’s hand to embrace the outcast. The Church is God’s hand to protect the refugees. The Church is God’s hand to bring healing for the sick. The Church is God’s hand to feed the poor. The Church is God’s mouth to stand up against the oppressors, the corrupt leaders and destroy the lies of this world. The Church is God’s mouth to represent God’s Kingdom, His values and His good news. If the Church doesn’t do that, who else would?
If the Church truly wants to represent her traumatized Lord whose heart is for this traumatized world, than she has no other place than to stand with and to protect those who are traumatized.
“We carry the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”