But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2 Cor. 4:7-10)
The other day I was searching for a word that would describe what I was feeling at the moment. The word was perplexed. I cannot make my point if I do not share some of my own personal thoughts and struggles. So here it goes: I was looking at two situations that did not seem to make sense to me (perplexing). The first situation was that we are seeing our ministry expand and bear fruit. There is no pride in that statement. Believe me, after nearly 18 years as a missionary I am very clear on one thing. If the Lord does not move on someone’s heart with revelation, healing or some Life-giving touch of His Spirit – nothing valuable or lasting happens. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…(James1:17) We, as representatives, simply get to be in the room when He does what only He can do. So I was feeling appreciation and a sense of gratitude about our ministry and its increase. The second thought which I was experiencing at the same time was in the area of finances. Our finances do not seem to be keeping up with ministry and personal needs. I found this perplexing. In the Lord’s kindness I came across the above verses in 2 Corinthians chapter 4. It seems I am in good company. Paul’s words pulled my attention into the text. The words “but not” were riveting. Here is what I walked away with: This planet continues to be a war zone. One day all will be made completely right – but that is not now. Stuff happens, difficult times come, challenges take place, happenings occur that make no sense to us as believers. We, however, can choose to live in the “but nots”. Looking at the verses above we find that affliction does NOT have to lead to being crushed. Perplexity does NOT have to lead to despair. Feeling struck down does NOT have to lead to destruction.
It seems that the “but nots” are the places of genuine faith. It is the place where we fasten our eyes on the Savior as our unfailing anchor during tough times. It is the place that we reject all notions (lies) of abandonment by God or withdrawal of His love and compassion from us. Living in the “but nots” is knowing that Truth supersedes circumstances and that all things are redeemable for our good (Romans 8:28). Ultimately living in the “but nots” is trusting the unseen One more than my own weak and limited evaluations of the present moment.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18)
Early one morning I walked to the beach to pray. While sitting on the ramp I found my attention drawn to the sea oats. My attention was captivated by the sway of their stems and blossoms. Then my focus changed and I looked through the oats to the ocean. And there it was, in all its majesty, splendor and power, reflecting the rising sun and the hope of a new day. It was unseen until I looked through the riveting attention of the sea oats. Perhaps, just perhaps faith is the choice to look through the (temporary) circumstances TO the unseen One who is always (eternally) there! In Him is peace.