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“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11)
Life in a world where people are enslaved to sin is filled with pain, brokenness and distress. Not a single human has lived without experiencing the devastating impact of sin. Some have endured massive trials, unspeakable pain, countless injustices and terrible oppression at the hands of sinful people.
Many of us go through things that are so devastating that we feel like we will be broken forever and will never recover from them. It may be the death of a child, long-term abuse or rape, the betrayal of an adulterous spouse or a terminal illness. There are also “smaller” things that some of us go through that leave the same kind of devastating and long-lasting impact such as rejection from family or peers, personal failures or a debilitating injury.
Many of us have felt like we were a tree that was growing large and tall until the unthinkable happened to us. It feels as if someone has brutally chopped us down at the roots and the only thing that’s left of us now is a jagged, dead stump. We cannot imagine how life will possibly go on…or how we will ever recover from what we’ve been through…
However, the incredible thing is, for the believer in Jesus, no matter what we go through, we always recover and we always go on to live and thrive and bear fruit again. And this is never of our own doing, but it is God’s mysterious, sovereign work within us through the mighty power of his Holy Spirit.
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca [weeping], they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.” (Psalm 84:5-7)
As the Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (top), though we may be struck down, these trials can never ultimately destroy us. This is because the resurrection power of God is always at work within the believing children of God.
The Scripture says:
“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.” (Romans 6:8-9)
“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11)
In context these two Scriptures are referring to being dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. However, the principle of the Holy Spirit continually working his resurrection life and power within us believers holds true whenever “death” (in any “form”) assaults us. If we are alive in Christ, then we are eternally alive with his resurrection power. Just like Christ, death no longer has any mastery over us because we have already identified with him in his death and resurrection when we first believed (Romans 6).
The Bible says that believers, in fact, are constantly facing “death” through all kinds of different trials; however, they emerge as more than conquerors.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)
Amazingly, being “chopped down” is actually an opportunity for the resurrection power of God to be displayed in our lives, bringing him glory, honor and praise.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, the apostle Paul recounts a huge list of trials and sufferings he has endured–imprisonment, flogging, shipwrecks and constant danger to name a few. But then he says, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30). He goes on to explain why he says this:
“But he [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
The events in our lives are never certain. There is no guarantee, after having been chopped down once, that we will be free from other devastating and painful events in our futures. (I have depicted this through the clouds in my drawing. In the foreground is good weather, but in the background the clouds could be brewing into another storm.) Consider what happened to Paul (Acts, 2 Corinthians), Joseph (Genesis 37-50), Naomi (Ruth), Job (Job) and Jesus (Isaiah 53). Nevertheless, with all of these people, God displayed his power through their weakness and worked out their trials for good (Romans 8:28). He displayed his glory through them, but he also showed them his great kindness, love and compassion.
When we go through severe trials, God is always close to us, helping us through every step of the way. He loves us dearly and will never abandon us when we are weak, broken and in pain (Hebrews 13:5). He heals us from all our wounds. It is often through these trials that we learn just how much God really does love us and has compassion upon us. (See “Please Let Me Love Your Pain Away” (Warfare, Victory, Freedom, Healing Series).)
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all…” (Psalm 34:18-19)
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3)
“The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” (Psalm 145:13-14)
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8 NKJV)
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)
“They…drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.” (Psalm 107:18-22)
“He [Jesus] welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” (Luke 9:11)
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me [Jesus], because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:1-3).
“O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning…You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” (Psalm 30:2-3, 5, 11-12)
(See “Please Let Me Love Your Pain Away” (Spiritual Warfare, Victory, Freedom, Healing Series), “The Undying Hope That We Have” (Spiritual Warfare, Victory, Freedom, Healing Series), “The Undying Hope That We Have 2” (Spiritual Warfare, Victory, Freedom, Healing Series),“Footprints In The Sand: Questions And Answers About Suffering” (Believer’s Road Series 2) and “Christ The Rock” (Believer’s Road Series 2).)