On one level or another, everyone fights the battle of fragility at some point in life.

All You Have to Be Is Desperate

Sunday Scripture

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. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

By midwinter, the empty canning jars on my basement shelves are beginning to overtake the number of full jars.  Clear glass glints beside the jewel-toned beets, briny pickles, and thick spaghetti sauce.  By practicing the dying art of canning, I pay attention to these containers, knowing that a family can put away as many as sixty quarts of green beans in the space of those seasons between gardens.  Truly, the container is secondary to the contents.

The realities of life in an aging body keep me conscious of another container.  Paul the Apostle would have called it a clay pot.

That image suits me well.
Serviceable.
Functional.
Sturdy.  At least, I’ve always thought so.

But, feeling the brittleness of my mortal clay, it’s clear to me that I’m prone to breaking, and the sharp edges leave me bent some mornings and moving about with caution.

On one level or another, everyone fights the battle of fragility at some point in life.

So lest I fall into the mistaken notion that New Testament saints were bullet proof, I return to the words of Paul who strains his apostolic thesaurus to come up with metaphors adequate to the description of his own deep need:

 “We are hard pressed.”

Really?
Did his time move relentlessly forward as the work piled higher?
Did mounting expenses dwarf his income and suck the air out of his dreams?

“We are perplexed.”

Endless word of widespread persecution and death may have mirrored our present-day newsfeed, blaring a stream of events so unbelievable that emotions struggle to keep pace.

How does one meet all the needs, answer all the objections, filter all the choices?

The perplexity and the pressure are overwhelming to me, but Paul seemed actually to be strengthened by it:

“We are not crushed.”

Across the centuries, I strain my ears for the Uncrushable Wisdom, listening for a raspy voice, ruined from the blatant misuse of vocal cords in outdoor speaking engagements and thick with gravel from having traveled around in a tired body.  In exchange for Paul’s emptiness, God offered treasure: “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God,” (II Co. 4:6 ESV).  He became so full that the sheer force of Jesus’ life offset the pressure and permeated all the empty spaces.

I’d love to make that man a sandwich and sit down with him for just a few minutes – or even to stand at the kitchen counter.  I want to ask him how it all worked for him.

Here’s what I think Paul would say:

“All you have to be is desperate.”

My emptiness is an invitation for God to pour His fullness into me—whatever my assignment for 2020. By filling and indwelling believers, Jesus makes sure that the world will continue to see God in the flesh. As God’s expression of what He is like, we become broken bread and poured out wine.

There is no greater fullness.


Trusting in the “surpassing power,”

michele signature[1]


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45 thoughts on “All You Have to Be Is Desperate”

  1. Oh yes…only desperate. As the saying goes…there are no atheists in foxholes. I have noticed that as my body ages and weakens my spirit and my faith get stronger. I wonder if that is because where I am going I will not need my body but I will need my faith and spirit. God strengthens what we do need and winnows away the chaff that we won’t need. Our job is to follow his lead.

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  2. Also…I wanted to say that I love reading your posts because they always make me think. Your posts light a little spark in me that turns into a flame. Thank you for that.

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  3. It’s quite a vulnerable thing to begin to feel the affects of an aging body. I am committed to staying as fit as possible for as long as possible and yet I am noticing more aches and pains here and there than even last year. To be honest, I don’t know how people cope with the evidence of their own mortality without the hope of eternity that we have in Christ.

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  4. Michele
    I agree with you I also would have loved to have met Paul do you think he was handsome ? such great
    writings from him find myself lots of times quoting him.In the words of Toby Keith I ain’t as good as I once was
    I’ve got a few years in me now but I’m as good once as I ever was now my body says you can’t do that but my
    pride says yes you can.I will just keep on going whatever the good Lord sends my way each day and sing His praises!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, there are some ancient historians who have written about Paul, and I don’t know how reliable their information is but he was described as barrel chested and bandy legged. I never picture him as handsome, but I”m sure he was a great conversationalist!

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  5. It is amazing how we were made by God to be at the brink of all those things that make us despair, but we are not broken. If we feel broken, God will soothe that in his way/his time.

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  6. Beautiful thoughts and conclusions. I love this Scripture and the many truths in just a few sentences. We have so much treasure in Christ, but we must hold it in this simple, fragile, earthly containers to remind us that it’s not our own. As I get older and achier, I’ve noticed that my faith grows stronger and perhaps it’s because I am growing more desperate as I’m more aware than ever of my mortality and weakness.

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  7. That’s beautiful, Michele! Never really thought of myself as broken bread and poured out wine, but as Christ-followers from the time of Paul to now, we have that privilege and calling! Thanks for inspiring us!

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  8. Beautiful post, Michele. I have often wanted to sit down with Paul myself and ask him a few questions. My “jar of clay” feels somewhat brittle too these days.

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  9. I know what you mean about our jars of clay showing their wear. It seems the older I get, the more I’m reminded that this body and this world is only temporary.

    I wonder how the prosperity gospel people missed those verses in Corinthians. There’s much of being hard-pressed and perplexed in this life. But by His grace we’re not crushed, not in despair, not forsaken or destroyed. I especially love your last paragraph.

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    1. I remember Elisabeth Elliot describing herself as a clay pot and a “cracked pot.” And I think it’s truer every year.
      And that’s a great question. Clearly they are reading very selectively–and leaving out most of the Old Testament!

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  10. I want God to pour His fullness into me this year too, Michele. (My word for the year is “full,” in fact, so of course your last paragraph really made me sit up and take notice!) There’s no telling what that might look like, especially since we know that God’s power is often displayed in our weakness. But God is faithful, and I’m so grateful for that.

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  11. I’ve had this in a tab on my phone waiting for time to read it, Michele! Then I had a moment and my first thought was how overwhelmed I am- which makes me feel desperate. Opened said tab. Read. My heart is full again. Thank you Jesus, and thanks Michele for these beautiful, sturdy words.

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    1. I am so appreciative of your efforts to read here, and then to make time to let me know.
      So thankful to share words that fill us up and point us in the right direction for the next re-filling.

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  12. My emptiness an invitation for God to pour His fullness into me. I don’t often look at emptiness this way. The opportunity of emptiness is blessing, yet how often I miss out because I fear the emptiness. Such a beautiful truth. I need to spend time meditating on this! I would love to have coffee with Paul too! 😊 Another excellent post! Thank you!

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    1. Someone here in the comments pointed out how countercultural it is for us to embrace the emptiness and allow God to speak into it. We are programmed to fill every void, even if what we stuff it full of ends up hurting us in the long run.

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  13. I have no doubt that we all take our bodies for granted until the day comes when we are suddenly reminded that they will not always work the way we want them to. Maybe that is the time when we start to realise that time and age will eventually catch up with us. A beautiful thought-provoking post as always Michele, thank you for sharing it on #globalblogging x

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  14. So true. My faith also gets stronger as I age. I wasn’t raised with religion, but when I was in a very fragile state mentally, it was that I first started looking for God.

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  15. Michele, thanks for choosing to share your post with us. A message to encourage us and humble us as God’s grace is sufficient for us. We will feature this post in the next Blogger’s Pit Stop where we are trying to give due attention to the different categories that are shared with us.
    Kathleen

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  16. How I can relate, Michele! My husband says he believes aging in this fallen world is one of God’s mercies. It forces us to think about the fragility of this life and our fleshly bodies and hopefully to contemplate eternity. Something we rarely do in our youth. I never cease to be blessed by your use of words. Blessings to you!

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