Blog / Jars of Clay...Hope When Perplexed

By Nancy Paul
Friday, May 01, 2020

 Adversity  Hope  Peace  Trust
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We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

—2 Corinthians 4:7-9, NIV

2020 is definitely one for the history books. What details will you cling to? For instance, where were you when JFK was shot? I was on my way with my mom to have my prom dress altered. On 9/11 I had turned on Fox News as I dressed for Tuesday morning Bible study, in time to see the second tower fall. My husband, September 1945, vividly remembers his mom propelling his terrified 4-year-old self past the barricade at the Vancouver (BC) train station to meet this uniformed stranger who tossed him in the air asking, “Where did you get that red hair?”

As for pandemics, the year I was 10, 52,000+ U.S. children were infected with polio. The virus thrived in summer. All public swimming pools were closed, plus we were forbidden to run through our sprinklers to cool off. Lucky for us, vaccinations were in the works. There were measles and chickenpox and mumps parties to get the inevitable over before we started school. Why in the world parents ever thought that was a good idea is beyond me! And in 2003 SARS seemed remote, although it became the bane of some of my husband’s medical school classmates, quarantined in Toronto hospitals for the duration. Then poof—no more SARS!

I learned a new word from the experts: solipsism—ego-driven selfishness, according to Webster. Basically things don’t matter unless they affect you personally—that’s way over there, in China. We succumb to the first of Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief/loss—denial. Next comes angerreally, you’re not letting me go to my girlfriend’s house; followed by bargainingok, I’ll stay away for two weeks but that’s it; depressionwoe is me, how will I ever get through this; and finally acceptanceguess I need to figure out how to make the best use of my time.

Somewhere between bargaining and acceptance, Easter arrived with its decidedly different flare and my pity party set in. From earliest memory, Easter was a time for family and tradition. Photos of me in my smocked Easter dress, dainty corsage pinned on, came to mind. Easter bonnets were in vogue—my mother wore the best. While Good Friday services were somber and reflective, Easter Sunday, heady with the perfume of Easter lilies en masse, was full of joy and celebration. The evening dinner table was piled high with everyone’s favorite food as grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins congregated. And yes, my Easter basket was loaded. 

As our kids grew, we made our own traditions. When the grandsons arrived the Easter egg hunts became more creative. This year, I admit, I missed it all. I missed joining with others in silent reflection Good Friday. As luck (or God’s sense of humor) would have it, I did not miss the sunrise un-service in the cemetery—storm sirens on cue. I did miss the pastor’s greeting: “He is risen!” And our response: “He is risen indeed!” I missed our bagel breakfast on the way to church. And dinner for two was just not the same.

When interviewed by the Harvard Review, David Kessler (co-author with Kubler-Ross on grieving) identifies our loss of normalcy as grief. To the five stages of grief he has added a sixth dimension in his new book: Finding Meaning…the sixth stage of grief, Scribner, 2019. Acceptance is not enough. We try our best to explain, to anticipate.

As Kessler says in the introduction: this just happened; it is not a test nor a lesson; it does not require understanding; everyone must discover her own peace. It is the experts who need to know the science. For us, this bottom-line emerges: mining the depths of God as we shelter-at-home will attach meaning to the rest of our days.

Yes, the world has been thrown a curveball. All you moms with kids at home, are you wondering what to do next? You working women, is virtual meeting all it was cracked up to be? I prune the azaleas in front of the house and neighbors from far and wide walk by. A man on a bike way-too-small pops a wheelie and impresses his son. Do you wish it would end, or are you loving the change of pace?       

I am amazed at the creativity online.  We have been amused. And we have been touched. We join the Parisians and New Yorkers as they hang out their windows in their nightly shoutout to health care workers everywhere.

But more than all, we have been blessed by reminders that God is with us in our isolation. In the GABC Covid Daily, Good Friday’s edition by Ken Warren was timely in our reluctant separation from tradition: as the characters in the original Easter story watched from the sidelines, inevitably each heart encounters the risen Jesus ALONE!

There too the Moments to Worship brightened my morning solitude. Check these out on YouTube: the imaginary monologue of Joseph of Arimathea: “God in My Grave”, and the music of Zach Williams: “Empty Grave”. And “Peacemaker” by Greg Ferguson took me directly to that comforting character of the Lord in the Word.

My favorite picture of peace is by Jack E. Dawson: “Peace in the Midst of the Storm”. Look carefully—a little bird, perched safely in a niche in a rock, storm raging. 

Oh 2020, you have impressed us with the fragility of our jars of clay. And yet we have hope. We have the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6, NIV) embedded deep in our souls. Despite the perplexities of our todays, we are neither crushed nor in despair, not abandoned nor destroyed.

Nancy Paul

Nancy Paul is Canadian born and bred but happily settled in Texas. She is married, mother of two, and grandmother of three busy boys. A long time Womenary student, she loves to read, is a lover of God's word and a wannabe writer. Nancy is a regular contributor to, a collection of blog articles regularly published by the women of Green Acres Baptist Church of Tyler. As well, she is the women's Bible study coordinator at GABC.
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