We can look into 2 Corinthians as if we’re looking at a day to day journal of Paul’s missionary journeys and the things he experienced. Of all his letters, this possibly is his most personal and outlines more than any of his writings, his personal life and indeed his personal individual sufferings.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-11)
Day 1 – I was pressed out of all measure. ‘I was weighed down exceedingly. Like the beast of burden, like the donkey that takes all the cargo, I felt as if I was about to buckle under the heavy load of pressure that God laid upon me’.
Day 2 – He might have felt ‘above strength’. ‘The trial that God gave me today was above strength, it was far above my ability to endure. I couldn’t take it’.
Day 3 – ‘I was despairing today of my life, I felt there was no way out, no passage, no exit – at the end of my tether’.
Paul’s life looked at times like a confusing array of crossroads and junctions with flashing red, green and amber lights – he didn’t know whether he should go, wait or stop.
Day 4 – ‘In our hearts we felt the very sentence of death’.
We have talked here in days but sometimes our trials build up over longer periods.
Something happened to the great apostle and he felt he couldn’t go on. It was beyond bearing, he couldn’t take it any more. These struggles can leave huge doubts about our faith and who God is. Can we identify with Paul? Do we feel solidarity with his suffering?
For God sent Christ to earth to live a life of righteousness, to go through temptation, to go through testing, to go through trials and tribulations and to come through so that we might look to Him and have the power to go through it too.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 reads ‘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 troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God’.
Jesus knew the loss of a loved one as He wept at the grave of Lazarus. He knew what the emptiness of desertion was. In the home His family mocked Him thinking He was mad. However, He went through life taking the blows of abuse and ridicule from neighbours, countrymen, family members and friends.
We can experience bereavement, relationship breakdown, job loss, financial hardship or long term illness knowing that Jesus came through and said ‘I am the one who comforts you in all your tribulation’. Tribulation means ‘crushing pressure’. Like Jesus, Paul experienced crushing pressure in his life and ministry, but in all of his life he had the God of all comfort. God comforts us in all our tribulation, so that we can comfort others in their tribulation and, as a result of our suffering, we can be comforted.
We can trust God to take the fragments of our lives and remake them carefully building one precious stone at a time. He will not make them into what had been before, but into something even better. Isaiah 66:13 ‘As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem’.