October 6 (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For 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. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (ESV)
You have either experienced what Paul experienced or you will. If you have felt the emptiness of despair, then you know exactly what Paul is talking about. Don’t feel bad about feeling bad. No less than the apostle Paul went through a period of depression so dark that, as it says in the original Greek, he was at a loss how to live. If you haven’t felt it yet, stay with me here so you will be prepared when you do.
We live in a fallen world, friends. That is not just a metaphor. We all know about the big things…wars, poverty, hatred, crime…but our smaller worlds are broken, too. We suffer from uncertainty, doubt, and fear. We face illness, both major and minor. We have job difficulties and relational stress, and do I even need to mention finances? And when two or three or all of those things hit at once, we would be lying if we said everything was okay.
Yet notice what Paul took from the experience of despair. He learned to rely on God as never before and to stop relying on himself. Friends, I know the dark times are painful, but what a blessed place to arrive! I wish we could get to that place of complete trust in God without going through such pain, but that just isn’t how it works for most of us.
So how do we come through to the other side? How do we arrive through the darkness to the place of reliance on God? It helps to have walked with Him before the darkness strikes. Even if you have not experienced despair or true hardship, read and meditate now on the verses that talk about faith and the goodness and provision of God. Even if you think they do not pertain to you at the moment, let those verses deeply into your heart. No one knew the Scriptures better than Paul. He relied on the words of God during the worst of times to see him through, and they will do the same for you.
Father, I want to build up my protection against the assaults of the world by knowing You more. Open to me Your words and reveal to me their truth. Plant Your words deeply into my mind and my heart, that I may call upon them and find my way to You when I can see nothing in front of me. In the name of Jesus, Who trusted You through the darkness of death and brought life to all, amen.