Losing Heart, Gaining Perspective

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This week I’m particularly drawn to a passage in 2 Corinthians 4. Paul explains our frailty as humans and compares it to the glory of God and the salvation we’ll inherit when our suffering on earth finally ends.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

“Losing heart” indicates deep discouragement that leads us to give up and stop moving forward. I don’t know about you, but I have lost heart to varying degrees during 2020. Why does Paul say he isn’t losing heart? What kept him going through so much trial and suffering? The answer comes in previous verses.

  • In verse 6, he reminds us that God shines light into our hearts – “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Light is shining into our hearts if we are believers in Christ, and that light gives us hope.
  • In verse 7, he paints a word picture: treasures in jars of clay. He’s saying that the absolute glory and goodness of God lives inside these human bodies. God’s design in putting His glory into these frail vessels constantly reminds us that He is the one with all the power, not us. This is good news! We don’t have to muster up the strength to carry on. His power is at work to move us forward.
  • In verse 14, he says he knows …”that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” The truth of his inheritance spurs Paul forward and encourages his heart.

So Paul does not lose heart. His body is wasting away, but his spirit is renewed every day as he consciously recalls these truths: God’s light shines into our hearts, God’s power is hard at work within us, and God is bringing us home to heaven where suffering will no longer afflict us.

Paul then goes on to say that our affliction is light and momentary. At first blush I feel offended by this statement. I look around and see death, sickness, abuse, poverty and racial discrimination. I have a very hard time calling our present suffering “light and momentary,” and I certainly would never say that to a counseling client or friend who is grieving. What is Paul doing?

This passage is an example of a literary form of comparison in which the author holds one concept up next to another in order to magnify the difference between the two. The comparison lies between our current affliction and the “eternal weight of glory” that’s coming for all those who trust Jesus as Lord. So even though our current affliction is very great, Paul is saying that it will seem minuscule once we’re settled in our eternal home. Paul isn’t saying our suffering is worth nothing. He actually says our suffering is preparing us for the eternal glory that’s coming. In other words, we’re gaining perspective as we suffer.

I am currently standing on the earth. Compared to my body, the earth is massive. But compared to the whole universe, the earth is tiny. My suffering matters to God. Nothing is lost on Him. Psalm 56:8 says God keeps our tears in His bottle. Every moment of affliction is recorded and felt by Him. But He’s preparing us to see the earth fade into a tiny dot. The universe of heaven is waiting for us.

Remembering these truths doesn’t stop us from suffering. It’s not a form of denial. It’s a widening of our perspective. It’s a “zooming out” so that we can understand more fully what God is doing. We’ll never completely understand. Suffering is mysterious. But we can trust that He is with us. Our tears are in His bottle. And glory is coming.

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When Someone You Love Walks Away

Broken Heart

If you’ve ever tried to love someone and they didn’t receive it, this post is for you.

I have experience with this. Sometimes it’s just one conversation with someone and I feel completely shut down. Sometimes I spend years trying to be a friend, and ultimately the person walks away and never returns. These are really hard situations, and I think it would be easy for me to just shrug and say, “Well, it must be for the best,” or “She’ll eventually turn around,” or “God is sovereign.” While these statements may be (or are) true, I think they can keep us from facing the pain of loss. They can also keep us from coming to terms with our faith.

When a person decides your friendship isn’t worth her time anymore, it hurts. If you’re not careful, you’ll miss an opportunity to ask a critical question: How does this circumstance potentially shake my faith and invite doubt to creep in?

There was a time in my life when I lost a friendship that was very dear to me. This woman not only walked away from our friendship, but she also walked away from the Church and the Lord. I wanted to shut down my pain and just “trust the Lord.” But deep down, a storm was brewing. I spent several months white-knuckling my faith, telling everyone that I trusted the Lord’s plan. Only problem was, I didn’t believe a word of it. Why did my friend reject me? Why did she reject the Lord? Why didn’t He do more to intervene? What would happen if she died in the near future – would she go to hell? What was I supposed to do to help her?

These questions flew around in my head like a tornado. I knew I should trust the Lord, but I didn’t. I thought I had to fix something. I thought I must have done something wrong, or else maybe she wouldn’t have walked away.

A moment came when I crashed. In that moment of brokenness, I heard the gentle words of the Lord, saying it was ok for me to be sad. He wanted me to bring my grief and frustration and doubt into His throneroom. He wanted me to stop trying to be strong. He didn’t ask me to suck it up or move on. He allowed me to feel what I was feeling, just like a good counselor would do. And then in that moment (and many more to follow), He turned my heart to remind me of truth. He settled the storm.

This took time. If you’re grieving the loss of a friend, I encourage you to take your thoughts, feelings, and doubts to the Lord. He wants to be your comfort. And don’t be afraid to share with godly friends your frustrations and questions. I promise even the most godly person you know has struggled with doubt and anger. Be willing to be honest and vulnerable.

And finally, pray for wisdom. Just because someone walks away from you doesn’t mean the Lord gives you freedom to walk away as well. He calls us to continually love, even when that love isn’t reciprocated. You may not know how to do that, but He does, and He’ll show you.