Do you think you have problems? I suspect you would not trade your challenges for those confronting the Apostle Paul. Of the 13 books that he wrote, none is more intimate or personal than his second letter to the Corinthians. In this he wrote, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). What Paul faced would have sent the average person either into deep depression or flight, but Paul not only took it in stride, he actually seemed to grow with it.
In the same letter, Paul said, “Therefore we do not lose heart!” And in the same passage, he said it twice for emphasis. He used an interesting word translated “to lose heart” which is found only three times in the New Testament. Each time it was Paul who used the word. It’s also found in his letter to the Ephesians where it is translated “to be discouraged.” (See Ephesians 3:13.)
How could he be under tremendous pressure, struck down, crushed and perplexed, and yet actually stay on top of things? Paul knew about trials—not only through personal experience—but also through the study of God’s word as a rabbi. What did Paul know that we don’t? Read carefully. These five truths can sustain you in a dark situation.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17
1. Paul knew that trials accomplish the purpose of God.
Paul knew that life is a battle, but God is with us in the trial. Peter wrote, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12,13). No, God had not forsaken Paul; the enemy had come out in full strength against him.
2. Paul had confidence that God would sustain him in the dark.
Make a note of Isaiah 43 where God says when you go through the waters I will be with you. When you go through the flood it will not drown you, and when you face the fire you will not be burned. It was a foregone conclusion that, as Jesus told the disciples, in the world we will face persecution.
3. Paul could face trouble because he knew we are residents of a kingdom that cannot be shaken—an invisible kingdom that cannot be destroyed.
Hebrews 12:28 says, “Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe!”
4. Paul knew that God would have the last word.
Sometimes it looks as though evil has triumphed in the world. Never did things look more bleak and dark than during the Holocaust, yet eventually the evil was defeated and truth prevailed.
5. Paul also knew that we have a home in heaven.
Paul wrote, “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
Paul Shao’s mother was an American missionary, his father a Chinese doctor, and during the Cultural Revolution in China, the entire family became a target of persecution. For nine long months, Paul was kept in total darkness. Eventually, he was allowed to leave China. He later wrote that what he missed the most were the quiet intimate moments he had with Jesus Christ during solitary.
How can you lose heart in the dark when you know that the Shepherd of your soul walks with you no matter where you are, no matter what you face?
Resource reading: 1 Peter 4:1-2