This is what an autoimmune disease does. It wrecks our bodies and minds, crushing the jar of clay into fractured shards or pounding the wet clay into a shapeless lump. We are destroyed. This is the physical reality, the daily fact of declining health with no effective treatment or pain relief yet on board and no improvement.
If Jesus were not so near, dear, and close to me in this, I would be lost. But going down into the black hole has shown him to be more near and available the deeper into the cavern I go. This is why Paul could write this passage. He had been down into the pit. He knew.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 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 also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:7-12).
I am not abandoned. Jesus is with me. I need not despair, regardless of what destruction awaits my body, for it will one day be remade to be like his glorious body. My spirit can soar, even when my illness destroys my flesh and death is at work in my mortal body, for he has experienced the same and is with me in this.
Though my body is being crushed, this is only the clay version of who I will one day be anyway. This is not reality. This is looking into the mirror darkly, when one day we will be face to face.
Because I am just me, and I’m not C.S. Lewis or Randy Alcorn, I direct you to their words about suffering, a headlong look, rather than a sidelong and terrified glance. This is earth. This is where we all will suffer, if not now, then later. The whole creation groans as it awaits Jesus’ return. Therefore, these are the truths we must know.
(Please come back to read this for more encouragement: C.S. Lewis on Heaven and the New Earth: God’s Eternal Remedy to the Problem of Evil and Suffering)
With eyes on the future reality, C.S. Lewis in Perelandra paints a word picture of heaven, our true home, incorporating the German concept of sehnsucht, a word often translated as longing, pining, yearning, craving, or “intensely missing.” Lewis describes here his character Ransom eating his first taste of fruit in Paradise:
“Moved by a natural impulse he put out his hand to touch it. Immediately his head, face, and shoulders were drenched with what seemed (in that warm world) an ice-cold shower bath, and his nostrils filled with a sharp, shrill, exquisite scent that somehow brought to his mind the verse in Pope, ‘die of a rose in aromatic pain.’ Such was the refreshment that he seemed to himself to have been, till now, but half awake. When he opened his eyes— which had closed involuntarily at the shock of moisture— all the colors about him seemed richer and the dimness of that world seemed clarified.”
Lewis, C. S. (2012-04-03). Perelandra: (Space Trilogy, Book Two) (Kindle Locations 727-731). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
For this, we wait expectantly. In our suffering, we call this to mind. Pain prepares us. Suffering fills our hearts with longing. Anguish is the earthly flip side of this future heavenly yearning. For that reason, we can say with Paul that we are not crushed, despairing, abandoned, or destroyed, when from all outward appearances we are, and we know we are. We are painfully aware of it.
However, we know the reality of Christ in us and the reality that awaits us. This is not the end. Heaven will be more real than anything we ever experience here. Our time here is fleeting and but a moment.
Come, Lord Jesus.