The Life Project: 2nd Corinthians
Have you ever had affliction? Have you ever thought your suffering was too much to
bare? Ever thought you weren’t spiritual enough or else you wouldn’t be having these
thoughts? Well, you should know you are in good company. The Apostle Paul begins
his second letter to the Corinthians telling them about the suffering he has
encountered. He says that he had even “despaired of life.” There is no spiritualizing
this; no making this sound better than it was. Paul wanted to die. He felt too weak to
fight, too weak to face the sufferings that God had allowed in his path. Ever been
Why is it that we Christians don’t like to talk about our sufferings? Why do we pretend
to have things all together? Why are we so ashamed that we too have had thoughts of
death? Paul was honest. He wanted the Corinthians to know that whatever suffering
they had faced, he had faced too. And in retrospect Paul was able to understand the
good that was worked through his suffering. My prayer for you is that when your
suffering has come to an end, or maybe while you are in the middle of the storm, you
will be able to see the good that God has worked in you.
The first gift of suffering is the gift of comfort. I remember as a child, nothing felt so
good as my dad rubbing my back, telling me it would be okay, that he loved me. Even
now, when I am upset, I relish the comfort that comes from my loved ones. Last time I
was sick, my two year old put his “blankey” on my back, rubbed my leg and said “it’ll
be okay.” There is something about times of suffering that make us crave relationship.
And God knows this. It is through these difficult times, that we can feel His presence
most in our lives. If we allow God to comfort us, it is a precious gift that will forever
strengthen our relationship with Him.
The second gift of suffering is that we will understand how to comfort others. Have
you ever had someone tell you, “I know how you feel”, when you know very well that
they don’t? That is extremely annoying. When we are suffering, we want someone
who really understands, not someone who pretends. In the first chapter of 2nd
Corinthians, Paul says, “[God] who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can
comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” This is
no small gift. There are countless times, someone comes to me when they are feeling
depressed or lonely. I thank God that I have been where they stand, so I can tell them
with assurance that they will get through this.
The final gift of suffering I believe that Paul had obtained is the Glory of God. One of
my favorite passages of Scripture is found in 2nd Corinthians 4:6-7. “For God, who
said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the
light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this
treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not
from us.” Have you ever seen a jar of clay? I used to make pottery in college. And I
am not a master potter. My pots had cracks, they were misshapen, they were so weak.
I actually have only one piece left from my time at the potter’s wheel. The rest of them
have broken due to their fragile nature. That does sound like me; weak, fragile. I am
so thankful that God’s glory can shine through my weakness and through my suffering.
2nd Corinthians 12:9, “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 about my
weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” Amen to that!!
So next time you are tempted to conceal your suffering, to hide your weaknesses, think
of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. There are so many great spiritual gifts that
God can give you through your afflictions. Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all
things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according
to his purpose.”