For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 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.
2 Corinthians 4:6-7
I was asked this week by Evangelism Connections to craft a 2-3 minute video in response to this question:
How does your hope in Jesus help you in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis?
It isn’t my hope in Jesus that’s helping me now; it’s Jesus himself.
This prolonged crisis is teaching me that hope isn’t an act of will. Rather it comes to me through small gifts of grace that I am, on occasion, blessed to receive. The gifts themselves vary–a bit of insight, the kindness of a friend, a word from Scripture, sufficient clarity to make a decision, a good cry, the inspiring example of another–but what they have in common is that they come to me, seemingly of their own accord.
The experience of grace, when it comes, is an affirmation of all that I dare to believe about Jesus’ abiding presence and I am filled with hope. But I must admit, when the moment passes, I’m often humbled by a feeling of emptiness in its wake. Then I must decide how to live in the absence of the hope I once felt.
The poet Christian Wiman likens the experience of grace to that of artistic inspiration: “The memory of that momentary blaze and the art that issues from it can be a reproach to the fireless life in which you find yourself most of the time.” (1) I think that’s what St. Paul was trying to describe with his analogy of our lives as clay jars. From time to time, we’re blessed to hold and even share something of God’s extraordinary power, but take one look at us and it’s painfully obvious that the power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. This classic spiritual insight sums up my experience of hope in Jesus. I depend on it daily, but I cannot invoke it on command. What I can do, and try to do each day, is live in the light of the grace and love I have known, placing my hope in Jesus, no matter what I may or may not feel.
How does hope in Jesus help me now, in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis?
The hope that Jesus gives me now is surprisingly less focused on the future than I am. I spend most of my time looking toward the horizon, trying to discern how best to live and to lead toward what lies ahead. But when Jesus comes to me now with those bits of grace that give me hope, what I experience is a lightness of spirit and gentle redirection of energy toward what’s right before me. I can’t help but worry about and long for what tomorrow may bring, but Jesus invites me to take in the graces of the moment, do what today requires, and place my hope in Him. It feels a bit like manna in the wilderness: sufficient for the day.
This, as you might surmise, is not how I normally live my life. But maybe that’s a good thing.
So in these COVID-19 days, I’m learning to gratefully receive His hope when it comes to me, and live by its light even in the emptiness that follows, taking comfort in the fact that I am a clay jar and He is the Savior of the World. He is the source of my hope.
(1) Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Mediations of a Modern Believer (New York: Ferrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2013), p.4.