Hard times, hard places, difficult relationships, difficult circumstances…we all know them! They are a reality of life here on this earth. So how do we live with courage, joy and peace in the midst of these? I love what Paul has to say about our perspective and approach to life when hardship hits. And he knew of what he spoke! Listen to his words from 2 Corinthians 1:8-9:
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.
Utterly burdened! Beyond their strength! Despaired of life itself! Felt they had received the sentence of death!
Let’s look at these words in the original language for deeper understanding and insight into this passage:
- Hardships- Thlipsis– a pressing, pressure, oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits, a compressed way, trouble; from a root word meaning a worn way or path.
- Pressure– Bareo – to burden down, weigh down, depress; from a root meaning heavy in weight, burdensome, anything pressing on one physically or that makes a demand on one’s resources.
- Far beyond– Hyperbole – a throwing beyond; beyond measure; exceedingly
- Ability to endure– Dynamis – ability, power, strength, to have power whether by virtue of one’s own ability and resources or of a state of mind; to be able to do something.
- Despaired– Exaporeo – to be utterly at loss, utterly destitute of measures or resources, to renounce all hope, be in despair; from a root meaning to be wanting, embarrassed; in doubt, not to know which way to turn, to be at a loss with one’s self, to not know how to decide or what to do, perplexed.
Can you relate to any of those situations and emotions? I know I can – great pressure, beyond my ability to bear, despair and heaviness of heart.
But what does Paul say is the reason for these trials and hardships? So that we might not rely on ourselves but on God! (verse 9). And I get that. I’m even willing to embrace that, but the reality for me so often in the midst of difficulties is that He would… GET ME OUT OF THIS SITUATION! …just being real here. But if we keep reading there is some encouragement for us and an opportunity for us to grow.
In verse 10, what does Paul tells us about what God does for us in the hardships and trials in our lives? Deliverance! Paul repeats the word deliver three times in just one verse. This means we need to sit up and take notice!
How do you define deliverance from hardships and trials? Again my initial reaction and my flesh woman wants God to make it go away, alleviate the pain, resolve the problem, make it all good! But God’s deliverance is very different from my expectations and what the world tells us.
The word for deliver in the New Testament Greek is rhyomai and it means to draw to oneself; rescue out of bondage. God’s plan in our trials and hardships is to teach us to rely upon Him. And He does so by drawing us to Himself and rescuing us out of bondage, not necessarily out of the trial or hardship, but out of the bondage of living dependent upon self/the flesh. I don’t know about you, but this puts a new perspective on my trials and hardships. It gives me hope and perseverance in the midst of difficulties. It give me perspective, because ultimately I want to live to please and honor God. I want to look more like Jesus! And if it takes a difficulty to make that happen, then that really is my heart’s cry.
Did you notice how Paul began this passage? Go back and read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. —2 Corinthians 1:3-4
He begins by extolling and praising God for who He is!
The God of all comfort – comfort is the word paraklesis which in the original Greek means a calling near; an exhortation, admonition or encouragement for the purpose of strengthening. So even when my flesh woman is screaming to “make it go away” I find hope, peace and comfort knowing that the God of All Comfort, who is Sovereign and good, has a bigger purpose in it all. He’s making me reflect Jesus more and more and He will use my difficulties to encourage and comfort someone else down the road. So be encouraged today!
- Perhaps you’re at the beginning of the process and you just need to know that God wants to draw you close, comfort you and shower you with His unfailing love and grace.
- Perhaps you’re finding the “new norm” in the midst of your situation, be looking for how God comforts you, perhaps He will provide someone to encourage you or an opportunity for you to comfort another in their affliction.
- Perhaps you have just come out the other side and God wants to use your experience to declare His goodness and love to someone in need.
Wherever you are…be encouraged…draw close to Him and give thanks for His goodness, unfailing love and immeasurable grace! I’ll leave you with the best encouragement and comfort I know…God’s Word:
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. —James 1:2-4 (HCSB)
Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. —2 Corinthians 4:16-17 (HCSB)
But he said to me, “ My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. —2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. —Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith — more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. —1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV)
©2014 Susan Cady, susancady.com