Friday, March 29, 2013

Struck Down, But Not Destroyed

It was Valentine's Day, 1951.Two brothers, Dick (11 years old) and Gary (7 years old), had just come home from a Cub Scout Party. The family farm was situated on the west shore of West Grand Traverse Bay, about five miles from town. The frigid February temperatures had just put a thin film of ice over the whole bay. The boys and a friend were excited about the new ice, and without saying a word to their parents they left the safety of the farmyard and headed across the road to the bay.

When the brother's dad discovered they had gone down to the bay he went running after them...but it was too late. Their dad nearly drowned that day. He searched desperately for the boys, repeatedly falling into the frigid water as the in the hole in the ice got larger and larger. But the three of them were gone. 

As their younger brother Ted grew up in their home, he heard many stories about the boys, about that horrible day, about loss. Though his parents endured by clinging to their faith in God and the community of their church, Ted learned what life looked like when it is scarred by grief.

Let's be honest: even those of us who have placed our hope and trust in God have our share of pain, grief and loss. 

Unexpected events can arise that shake us to the core and leave us wondering what happened. I suspect that every one of us could tell of events that have rocked our world. More than one follower of Christ has turned away from him because they could not regain their sense of stability following the pain or loss that came their way.

We’re followers of Christ, but we still live this earthly and sometimes painful existence. How do we handle the difficulties and disappointments that arise?  The Apostle Paul gives a perspective for handling this earthly life.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul notes that he and his companions “are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).  However, he does not stop with describing the source of his scars. There is more to the story:
“Therefore we do not lose heart; though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
The “eternal weight of glory” refers to the splendor, the magnificence, the honor, and the happiness of the eternal, unscarred world, the world that has been promised to those who have been reconciled to God through forgiveness of sins and faith in Jesus Christ. Something about this “looking at things not seen,” looking at God in the midst of -- and in spite of -- the pains and sorrows that come our way, brings us into a glory that will outweigh anything life has to throw our way.

Don't give up hope. 

Life may be achingly hard, but the pain is only temporary. One day, God will usher us into a life free of the things that threaten to tear us apart. One day, God will make all things new, and that glory will never fade.

(From a sermon given by Ted Smith at Church of the Living God on Sunday, March 24, 2013)

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