I feel the need to write out some stuff that’s going on in my head right now -
I’m preaching in a few weeks (10/12) at a church in rural Kentucky about 1 hr from Louisville. A dear brother who pastors the church is staffing the Men at the Cross retreat that weekend, and asked me to fill in for him. I haven’t preached since February 2006, and needless to say I was a very different person back then. I could never put in the chunks of study hours that I did back then; if I did it, it would have to be on a text that I’ve been marinating in for years.
I’ve been struggling of late whether or not I made the right decision in accepting, mainly doubting I have anything worth saying. The Lord is persistent though, and keeps bringing me back to it. This morning I settled on my text: 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:5.
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. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (ESV)
There are many themes near and dear to my heart here. Brokenness and glory, the spirituality of the body, and God’s grace and power in weakness to name a few. What is most prominent right now though, and hauntingly so, is that it is part of Paul’s exhortation as to why he doesn’t “lose heart” (4:1,16).
I didn’t think too much of it at first, but I’m starting to think this is what God’s up to in me. I feel like I’ve lived in the “loss of heart” state for a very long time, and I’ve just assumed it would continue perpetually. It usually manifests itself in a profound sense of meaninglessness and/or failure in an area of my life (just happened a couple nights ago concerning my parenting). It can also manifest itself in a general sense of meaninglessness. I think of that area, sigh, and try not to think about it anymore. That’s what “loss of heart” looks like in me. Resignation has taken the place of prayer or desire. I engage in some escape activity in order to avoid thinking about how painful that area of life is. Not proud of it, but there it is! I do take time to look at it, try to process it before God, but it’s exhausting and very painful so I can only do it in short bursts.
I think I know what “loss of heart” looks like – what would it look like to regain it? I imagine it would mean feeling more hope about God and his ability to redeem the broken areas of my life. Maybe even more peace and joy, though I’m reluctant to hope for that. Deep down I fear that I’m being teased with the possibility just to be disappointed – again.
I’m skeptical that my heart can be restored, but I’m moving forward trying to trust that God is able & willing to “restore my soul” (Ps 23:3).