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.
2 Corinthians 4:7-11
How might you be seeing God growing and maturing you through the painful things that have happened to you? I ask myself that question today thinking of what connoisseurs of the finest teas call “The Agony of the Tea Leaves.” This is the agony which is said to set apart great tea from tasteless supermarket teabags. The agony describes the writhing and unfurling of tea leaves as boiling water is poured over them. It is in that moment of agony that the tea’s stored oils of flavor and aroma are released. Tea lovers know that the agony makes for the finest cup of tea.
I learned about The Agony of the Tea Leaves at a ‘church tea’ given for our friend Pat after enduring years of chemotherapy, radiation, and needles. All of who gathered that day had witnessed Pat’s character and courage through those years and were loving and admiring of her.
It was when reflecting on today’s scripture that I remembered The Agony of the Tea Leaves as the apostle Paul writes of his agony of being “afflicted – perplexed – persecuted – struck down.” The original Greek verbs reveal increasing agony for Paul, yet he can say that he is “not crushed – not driven to despair – not forsaken – not destroyed.” Paul explains that it is through such agony that “the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.” In what we experience, others see the resurrection power of Jesus’ life in us!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German pastor and theologian imprisoned and martyred by the Nazis. Yet, writing in a Gestapo prison cell shortly before his execution, Bonhoeffer could triumphantly say:
“I believe that God can and will bring good out of evil, even out of the greatest evil. For that purpose he needs men who make the best use of everything. I believe God will give us all the strength we need to resist in times of distress, but he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on Him alone. A faith such as this should allay all our fears for the future. I believe that even our mistakes and shortcomings are turned to good account.”(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison)
As Easter follows Good Friday, so the power of Christ’s life in us follows our agony and struggle. We who gathered to celebrate our friend Pat’s beautiful life were seeing Jesus alive in her. Pat, like the apostle Paul, demonstrated that “this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”
Why not take some time today to reflect on how God might be using your agony to show forth the life of Christ in you!
A fellow traveler,