Despair that Leads to Life

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

“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 affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

“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.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” 2 Corinthians 1:2-10

The secret to Paul’s ingrained attitude of hope was his knowledge of the Lord, his fixing each day- every thought and sense and choice- on the grace and peace that was his in Christ. Here he worshiped, from here he served, and to this blessed place he invited all to whom he wrote. No matter the difficult circumstances of suffering, affliction, or despair, in his Christ was sure comfort, hope, and life. His very words describing hardship are surrounded and swallowed in numerous nouns, adjectives, and adverbs emphasizing sharing, abundance, and deliverance in the Lord. Indeed, on him we have set our hope.

We, too, can see our afflictions that way when looking through the lens of Christ’s life. His reviling and rejection by men became the avenue of His grace to their salvation. He was stricken in order to heal, crucified to be resurrected and make possible eternal life. (Isaiah 53:3-12; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)

For us, the zigzag of heartache and disappointment, wrenching fear and grief, failure and disappointment flow with the soothing living water of Jesus when we are filled with Him. When surrendered to His higher purposes, we also sparkle with His glory. He is blessed as we endure. He is exalted when we turn reliance on self toward Him alone. His strength is truly made perfect in our weakness as He proves His faithfulness over and over. (John 4:13-14; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Are we heavy-laden with worry? Bless the Father of mercies! Suffering in emotional or physical pain? Rejoice in sharing with Christ! Choking in an ever-widening vortex of grief? Lean on the God of all comfort! Despairing of life itself? Lift eyes and hope to the Deliverer! Embracing the grace and peace He embodies brings palpable comfort and strength for each day and lights the way forward with resurrection hope.

Lord, smother every shadow in the hope, shine, and comfort of Your life light, to Your praise.

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