In a liturgical chant, psalmist King David includes an earthy groan, describing his life as a broken vessel (Psalm 31:12). You too may feel like a fragile vessel, a breakable clay jar that’s fractured and about to fall to pieces. You may struggle with repeated failures, your fractured soul ready to give up. Brokenness is something we all share—we all experience some kind of fracture. How should we manage the fragility of our hearts? How can we find healing and transformation? How do we deal with the brokenness that exists in our world?
In 2 Corinthians 4:6–10, Paul says something that fascinates me:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” 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 jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to 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 manifested in our bodies.ESV
God has shone light into our hearts in ways that make a difference, and this light is revealed in the face of Jesus. We are described as vessels made of earth and clay, which signifies our weakness, fragility, and brokenness. We are frail and feeble, but we are not merely earthen vessels that are easily shattered and discarded; we are defined by that light that has been shined inside of us. We are fragile jars of clay that contain this fabulous treasure, this light of God’s love that penetrates and fills us. Though our bodies are weak and mortal, the treasure shining within them is powerful. It is sanctifying, healing, and transformative. God’s power strengthens and holds together our fragile jars of clay, so that they can manifest the life of Jesus. Our life’s purpose is to contain and carry this treasure, never losing it through everyday experiences.
God pours the light of His love into our fragile jars of clay, ensuring that no imperfection or brokenness we encounter in the world will break or destroy us. We may be bruised and beaten down, but we can remain unbroken. Though we occupy these mortal, weak, and frail vessels, we are not ordinary; the light of holiness resurrects us over every painful experience. The light God has placed within us allows us to heal and change, and by beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus, we are transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:17–18).
Can God really hold such weakness and glory together? Yes. Though we may feel like broken vessels, if we allow God to fill us with His power, we can change into vessels that portray strength through weakness. It seems that God prefers to contain His treasure in earthly vessels because His power and strength are made perfect through our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10. We are made strong through the treasure God places within us, which shatters our pride and self-sufficiency. God looks upon a broken and contrite heart and fills it with His glory (Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 66:1–2). The light from God’s presence is what shapes us, heals us, and transforms us.
Not only does the light of God’s glory get into our hearts but we are reserved for a purpose. That purpose is to carry the light and help transform the world. God’s light consecrates us, but we also find ourselves shining the light of God’s selfless love toward others in our hurting and broken world. The light of God’s glory in the face of Jesus transforms our vessels, preparing us help other earthly vessels. We need not attempt to hide our frailty and weakness. We are defined by the desirable treasure from God, the light that heals and strengthens us. What most needs healing is the world’s perception of God. The world does not consider Him desirable, and our job is to manifest God’s glory as seen in the face of Jesus. The only way to help others and change the world is through the light of God’s character revealed in Jesus. What the world needs more than anything is to know the face of God’s unrelenting love, and God chooses to use ordinary earthly vessels to facilitate this knowledge. Keep shining and finding ways to be holy containers in this imperfect life so that God’s light can shine through the darkness around us and be seen as a desirable treasure.
Craig Ashton Jr.