Today's devotional in My Utmost for His Highest focused on 2 Corinthians 4:10: "We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." (NIV)
At first glance, that verse did not seem appealing to me, and I was a little confused about what it meant to "carry around in our body the death of Jesus". I looked it up in a commentary and thought about it some more. I came to see that Paul truly carried in his body the death of Jesus. Like our Savior, he was beaten, abused, threatened, and harrassed; yet Paul continued to preach the gospel. He submitted to God in all circumstances and kept on with the ministry to which God had called him. He was knocked down, but he kept getting back up. The verse before 2 Corinthians 4:10 reads, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." Like Jesus, Paul's flesh nature was continually being put to death as he remained obedient to God. The more Paul went through, the weaker he became so that he had to lean on and rely on the power of Jesus, and the more he leaned on and relied on Jesus, the more others could see Jesus revealed in him. Just one of many paradoxes in a Christian's life.
I haven't gone through physical pain and harrassment because of Jesus, but I have gone through physical trials and spiritual warfare. (If anyone wants to know what spiritual warfare is like, ask those of us who have had panic attacks and/or depression. Warfare doesn't get more real than that.) The hard part about carrying the death of Jesus in us is that we have to die to self. We have to put aside our selfish ambition, self-will, self-preservation, self-justification, self-promotion, etc. This just doesn't happen except by our going through trials, temptations, and adversity. We must see how weak we are so that we can see how powerful Jesus is. Then we are willing to die to self so that Jesus may live in us. We live out spiritually what John the Baptist spoke of physically--"He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30, NKJV)
I will always be grateful to God for showing me just how arrogant, selfish, and prideful I was during the first 50 years of my life. Panic and depression stripped every illusion, and I saw myself for the first time as I truly was. I felt like Isaiah in chapter 6 when he saw the Lord--"Woe is me!" But praise God, He did not condemn me. He extended His most excellent grace and mercy and unfailing love to me. Through His Word and His presence, He began to restore my soul and renew my mind. Whenever I need a wake-up call regarding my will or God's will, I just remember my days of panic and depression.
According to God's Word, we should welcome our hardships because they weaken our flesh nature so that the power of Jesus can be revealed in us. Adversity is a tool used by God to shape and mold us into the likeness of His Son. And if we will cooperate with Him, the process will produce the light of the glory of Jesus in us. I want that. I want the life of Jesus revealed in me.