2 Corinthians 1:8-11
Go ahead and read the above verses. These are some of my favorite verses in the Bible. In fact, 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Here, Paul is encouraging the Corinthians with this comforting message God had sent him. Paul and Timothy were up against incredible odds when trying to preach and advance the gospel in the province of Asia, and it reached the point they no longer found delight in life. They actually thought they were going to die, but they relied on God. And God came in and saved them.
In this life, we are often at odds with the forces of evil and chaos all around us. We try and try, but it feels like we are getting nowhere. When we go through these difficult times, we often try to persevere and continue doing what is right, which is good. We need to keep going and have faith, but sometimes we reach the place where we think there’s no way to go on. We are trapped, abandoned, defeated, exhausted, and out of ideas. Paul and Timothy were at this place.
We then start to think, “I’m a Christian. God is supposed to be helping me. Why hasn’t He got me out?” We often blame ourselves, as if our sin caused God to punish us. But look at Paul and Timothy. Paul wrote most of the New Testament, and we could consider Timothy his prodigy. Paul and Timothy were known as the ultimate witnessing team, each great men of God. Paul never says they were up against punishment for something they had done that they could not bear. He says they were up against opposition. We tend to forget there are things in this world that are working against the will of God, and we will have to face those things.
But some would ask, “Why is God not helping me fight this?” God is there helping you. When we have to ask this question, it means we do not know what God is doing. Sometimes, God is doing what He did for Paul and Timothy: “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (verse 9b) Paul and Timothy thought they were going to die, and sometimes stuff gets so bad we think we are going to die too. But God has the power to even raise the dead. God certainly has power over our circumstances, no matter how bad it looks to us. Sometimes God will allow something to happen to bring us closer to Him, and sometimes bad things just happen and God calls you closer through them. Our heavenly Father is working all things, even things we think are bad, together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. Once we rely on God, even if the problem doesn’t immediately go away, we will find it much easier to carry on.
Verse 10 is particularly beautiful. Paul goes from describing his past dilemma and God’s salvation to finally their revitalized hope in God. Have you ever noticed that going through tough times strengthens your faith? I was once abruptly given some bad news, at church of all places. I went home mentally dead from the stress and emotions of that morning. I couldn’t believe it was happening, but at the same time, it seemed to make sense. No one saw it coming, and it was a terrible shock to us all. But that evening, before dinner, I was in my room on the floor, praying and letting the entire situation go into God’s hands, because I couldn’t handle it being in mine. I didn’t have control over it, and it felt better knowing God did. And after that, I began looking to the future, to the revelation of God’s great plan. Simply stated, I looked forward to when this would make sense and we would know why it happened. Now I do know, in part. But even before, God gave me hope and faith out of His great, unending love. God’s Word tells us here that we can look back on how God has helped us and other people in the past, and we can trust Him to continue to help us like that now.
Finally, Paul makes a statement on prayer. When we are going through troubled times, we should pray, and we shouldn’t be afraid to ask others to pray for us too. We will benefit from their prayers of help. And when God does deliver us, trust that He will, it will not only be to our benefit but also to the benefit of those who prayed for us. Prayer is a powerful privilege God has given us, and we should use it responsibly and not take it for granted. Talk to God. He listens to everything we say in general; how much do you think He listens when we talk to Him? He loves us and wants to help us, guide us, and show us Who He is. God wants to reveal Himself to us, and He will gladly do it when we ask. A very wise Christian once said, “We see God’s hand in the good times, but we see His heart in the tough times.” This means we can better see our Father’s love for us when we let Him take care of us through those tough times like He wants to.
At the beginning of verse 8, Paul says he didn’t want the church at Corinth to be “uninformed” of their troubles. When we struggle with something, we usually want to hide it. But Paul is honestly describing their experience. By telling others of the problems God has helped us through, we show them God’s mercy, power, faithfulness, and love through our own experiences, and we become God’s witnesses (Acts 1:7). Paul bluntly tells them that the pressure they were under was “far beyond our ability to endure.” He isn’t afraid of these people knowing he has limits and there are things he cannot do. We should not be concerned with other people thinking we don’t have it all together, because we don’t! God has it all together; He is in control. And that is what we should be showing people. We take courage from the promise God is always there for us (2 Tim. 2:13) and the times we have seen that promise proven. The things we find encouraging are the things the people around us are probably going to also find encouraging. God uses us to be His light here on earth (Matthew 5:14), and God never wastes anything. When God keeps us from bad times, it is for our good. When God allows us to go through those bad times, it is for our good and the good of others.
E. R. Peters