Even Paul writes that he reached a point in his life and ministry that he “was under great pressure far beyond his ability to endure” (2 Corinthians 1: 8b).
What scripture teaches us is that as followers of Jesus Christ, we are like fragile jars of clay that hold the all-surpassing power of God within us (2 Corinthians 4:7). “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not is despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8). So how do we hold on to hope? To joy? To peace? How do we not just survive, but thrive in spite of difficult times?
We “persevere in the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12: 1) by “fixing our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4: 18).
God has taught me through this season of trial is that while the burdens are overwhelming, I find relief and strength when I intentionally look away from the gigantic problems and look instead at what is unseen – the God who I believe exists yet cannot see. The God who I believe is Comfort when I feel distraught. The God who is Clarity where there is confusion. The God who is Hope when everything is broken. The God who is Peace when I feel angry. The God who is Courage when everything is uncertain. The God who is Strength when I don’t have any left.
And the most powerful thing about this crazy truth is that while God instructs me to look away from my burdens and towards Him – who is unseen – He doesn’t ask me to do this blindly. When he instructs me to anchor my faith in what is unseen, He doesn’t leave me staring into nothingness or at mere words on the page of my bible. In His mighty love, grace, and compassion – my God shows up through His people. His intercessors.
He showed up in the people who came to our home and brought cards or goody baskets or get-well wishes after Jordan broke his leg.
He showed up in the people who brought meals to my family when I was exhausted.
He showed up in the friends who came over to take Jordan trick-or-treating around our neighborhood in his rented wheel-chair.
He showed up in both of our extended families who came to our home and stayed with us to help however needed.
He showed up in the doctor who looked over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching and then prayed aloud over Holly right before she went into surgery.
He showed up in the numerous people who provided around-the-clock help to Holly and Annie during a three week “no lifting restriction” for Holly following her surgery.
He showed up when my good friend and prayer partner – knowing how saddened I felt about not being able to cook for our Monday or Thursday night community dinners – brought a homemade meal on a Thursday for 12 people.
He showed up in a moment of great discouragement when I pulled up in front of my house after being at Holly’s, feeling defeated that I was too tired to cook dinner on an evening that I had asked everyone in my family to be home for dinner and game night. Just as I turned off my car I received a text from a friend at church saying that she’d been thinking of me and had already made a homemade meal for my family that she was bringing over. No one but God knew how I was feeling in that moment, and I believe that the Holy Spirit – who is unseen – moved in the heart of my Christian sister to minister to me and show me God care when I needed it most.
He showed up when I was feeling particularly stretched, and also frustrated at myself for even having an emotional moment even though I’m not the one who actually has cancer or broken bones. Again, no one but God knew how I was feeling, and yet my college roommate (who had just stayed with Holly for a few days during her “no lifting restriction”) texted me right then just to tell me that she understands how physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining this season of my life is for me and that she’s praying for me. I cried because reading her text I knew that the God who is unseen sees me. And I’m not left to manage any of my burdens apart from His presence and help.
The world gives us far more that we can handle. But we are never asked or expected to bear it alone. And so, together
and in community.
We run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Considering Him who endured relentless opposition. So that we do not grow (or stay) weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12: 1-3).
Because God never promised us that he would put everything back together the way it was before the storm. Before the tragedy. Before the brokenness.
He promises to make something new. To create beauty from ashes. To restore our hearts to hold joy, hope, and love despite the sorrow and the uncertainty and the pain that will come. And to be with us – through the work of His Spirit and the presence of His people – until the work of redemption is finished.