Love & Adversity in Faith

Ok, bear with me, but take a moment to read the following passage:

2 Corinthians 1

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia:

2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise to the God of All Comfort

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a]about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

I was reading through this passage while riding home from a funeral Tuesday. No, no one in my immediate family passed, but rather I was there for support for the family of the deceased (my future in-laws) and I kept thinking about how differently people view life and death with or without a relationship with God.

Funerals are naturally a parting of the ways that comes to everyone, but it is the nature of the passing, and the outlook of the living that transforms funerals from sorrow to mournful peace. It is certainly alarming to understand the reality of the gap an individual occupied now empty, and it’s not wrong to mourn by any means, but the real question is, are you hopeful or hopeless? Are you comforted or uncomfortable with regret?

The passage above was timely, because it was a snapshot of Paul being uncharacteristically vulnerable. He so often bore the kind of reputation Christians can easily covet today (super exciting God story, passionate preaching, extroverted teaching, fearless leadership and determination), but in this moment he admits that he wasn’t so strong. He says he was in over his head and despaired being alive.

Now it makes sense why he prefaced this confession with truth from God. To be honest, I can identify with that through times I was shaken but not forsaken- I had nothing left but to look at the Word and pray for its truth to fill up my life again. I told myself what was true again and again because it was all that got me through when people were failing, and my life was shredding itself to pieces.

But that pain wasn’t the end of it. Indeed, it was more like the beginning. God saved me from that dark time, and it was to be expected because He promises help (I always recall Psalms 131, 136, 139), and it’s exactly what He did for Paul in this passage.

“Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers.”

The darkness isn’t to ruin us, but rather to refine us. I love how Paul points out that this time was an opportunity for them to “not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” I know that most of my feeble spiritual insight isn’t something new, but I would encourage you to remember that the Christian faith is tried and true, even when the basic tenets of what we believe are forgotten in the daily wear of life. Remember who you are in Christ. Remember your purpose. But most of all, remember that you are loved. God does not want you to fail, but to learn to have greater faith in Him, nurtured by His love, that in turn we can give to others:

“3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 ”

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