Pestilence Confronted: Jars of Clay

The damage, sickness, suffering and even death from Covid and its impact on the economy make us face some stark truths about life; truths we would rather not have to confront I think: Why do we suffer? Better yet, why do we have to suffer?

Instinctively, we know the answer(s) to this question cannot be simple because the causes and circumstances that we observe around pain, suffering and death are complex. We see choices, circumstances, good and bad fortune, natural and unnatural, unexplained phenomenon and numerous other conditions combining to afflict, perplex and overwhelm. Some want answers, some want only relief.

St. Paul the Apostle, no stranger to severe pain and suffering, likened our lives, our existence, our condition to “jars of clay” which are purposeful, useful, but also fragile. He said these “jars of clay” hold “treasures” which are a “ministry” and “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” And remarkably, Paul takes up the why question: Why do we have to suffer? Paul writes to the Corinthian church:

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.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (ESV)

Covid or any form of suffering can make us feel powerless and fragile, like a clay jar. The truth is we are fragile and only steps away at any moment from disaster. But our God is a “surpassing power” able to bring us through the lowness and darkness of life’s afflictions as we trust (faith) in him. May God’s grace (redemption from sin and restoration to new life in Christ) lead us fully to his Son, Jesus Christ and may that grace sustain us in times of trouble.