Life is fraught with hard moments, hard days, and hard times. The temptation to want to give up can be strong and alluring. But statistics warn against giving up when the going gets tough. Many people miss out on the fruit of their labors if they give up in the hard times.
But more importantly than the warning of statistics, God lovingly, gently, kindly warns us to not give up. The apostle Paul was an expert at going through hard times. In fact, I wonder if there was ever a time in his post-conversion life that was not hard! And he did not give up. He was certainly tempted to despair. But he did not.
And, thankfully!, he shared some of the things he learned about going through hard times and what God is up to in our lives that helps give meaning and purpose to those hard days.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9
- The feeling: “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.”
- The meaning: “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-11, 16-18
- The feeling: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus,”
- The meaning: “So that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our moral flesh…So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
- The situation: “A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me (Satan’s design), to keep me from becoming conceited (God’s design). Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.”
- The meaning: “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.”
Praise God for this kind of help, hope, and insight into the hard times! Now, I just need to keep on preaching it to myself.