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by Mary Alice McGinnis
When I was a teenager, God had revealed the truth of His love to me and for the world. I felt a calling on my life. I wanted nothing more than to dedicate my life to sharing the light of God’s love with others. So, I went off to college, and I got my degree in elementary education so I could teach young people about God’s love. My high school sweetheart followed and got his degree in Psychology and Religion. I had glorious visions of what our life together would be. We would be “Partners in the Gospel.” Soon after we both graduated, we got married. All too soon, my visions of a bright future slowly faded as the frightening monster of co-dependency and addiction began to rear its ugly head. Life did not turn out like the fairy tale dream I had imagined. Instead, it was more like living a recurring nightmare. I kept holding on to the hope that when I woke up, everything would be fine. For many, many years, I kept my head in the sand of denial, pretending everything was okay and projecting this image of a strong woman of faith who had it all together. I could not admit, even to myself how serious things were. During this living nightmare, despite myself, there were countless ways God’s hand of grace provided for me, sustained me, and protected me. His grace and unending love never left me for even a moment. After 25 long years, God rescued me, took me by the hand, and led me out. My marriage and seemingly my dreams all came to an end. The years that followed my divorce, one burning question kept coming up in my heart. “Why God? Why has all this happened to me? I don’t understand! All I ever wanted to do was to serve you?” As I read today’s passage, I was reminded again about how God answered that burning question. “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” Luke 8:16 As I reflect on my life, I can see that I was that jar of clay. Even in my youthful visions, there were seeds of self-righteous pride that wanted to be seen and noticed. I wanted the limelight, to be looked at as some sort of spiritual hero. God saw me trying to hide the light of His grace under my fragile human ego. When the fragile clay jar of my ego got turned upside down, my sin and shame drove me into hiding. I would not open my vulnerable heart or life to people, being too afraid of having my shame exposed. I could not imagine how God could possibly use such a broken, messed-up person like me in His Kingdom.
I kept thinking, “What would people think of me if they REALLY knew?” So, I retreated further into a prison of denial, isolation, and self-protection, too ashamed to reveal the secrets of my dysfunctional life. God comforted me in that season through His Word. He revealed to me this powerful scripture, which has become my life verse:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
In the Old Testament book of Judges, we find the story of a cowardly man named Gideon. To prepare Gideon for the battle ahead, God whittled down his army to a mere 100 warriors. This was to ensure Gideon understood the battle belonged to the Lord. And when Gideon and his soldiers went into battle against the enemies of God’s people, they took only trumpets and torches carried in clay jars. Judges 7:20 describes the scene:
The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”
The jars of clay had to be smashed so the divine light of God’s glory could be revealed.
That is how God has been answering my burning “Why God?” question. He has told me that my story, as broken and shattered as it may seem, is all a part of His Story. Not because of how great I am - far from it!! But because of how lovingly powerful and life-giving my God is.
He wants me to use my story to bring light to the broken places of others. My broken story is just a vessel to display the glorious light of the Good News of Jesus Christ, who came to rescue sinners like me. “Instead, . . .put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” Luke 8:17 Who around you might need to hear God’s story of love, forgiveness, and restoration today? How might God be asking you to use your story as His Story to bring the light of His hope, healing, and forgiveness into their dark places?
Praying through Song – Take some time today to reflect on your life. Use the lyrics of this song to pray to Jesus, the Light of the world, asking Him the help you carefully listen to the voice of His calling on your life.
“So, take my heart Lord, I’ll be your vessel.
The world to see, Your life in me!”