2 Corinthians 4:5-12 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from 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 made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Paul persevered through much mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual affliction because of the mission that was given to him by Jesus Christ. That was, to “be a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 9:15-16; 13:47). He describes his afflictions as a distressing and gradual act of dying or sacrificially giving up his own life so that others would live for Christ in the world as a result of knowing the “glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
The afflictions Paul humanly endured for the sake of others were enough to bring him down, perhaps lead him to quit, but he does not. He is a fragile clay jar filled to overflow by God’s extraordinary power and grace, not a superhero. Paul comes through his afflictions and perseveres in his mission not by drawing from his own limited and insufficient inner resources and wits, but from God’s extraordinary and abundant source of power and grace for living.
Troubles in our life come and go, sometimes they chronically stay around for years. Job says “People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from a fire (Job 5:7). Whatever the difficulties we may encounter in our lives or their intensity, variety, or duration, the extraordinary and abundant power and grace of God is always present in us to bring us through them; especially with things around us look dim, withered, or hopeless.
The Serenity Prayer attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.