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2 Corinthians 1:8–10

“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” (v. 9).

Having stated in general terms that God offers believers much comfort in affliction, Paul in today’s passage makes this principle more concrete by explaining how the Lord has offered the Apostle specific comfort in a specific affliction. In so doing, he helps us better understand that the comfort given by the Lord moves us from self-reliance to utter dependence on Him.

The Apostle makes reference to “the affliction we experienced in Asia” (2 Cor. 1:8). Some commentators argue that the Apostle refers to the uproar at Ephesus that occurred when Demetrius the silversmith and other craftsmen opposed Paul and the other Christians because belief in the gospel threatened their livelihood, which was centered on the sale of idols and other goods associated with the cult of Artemis (Acts 19). Other scholars believe Paul refers to an incident of suffering that Luke does not record in Acts. Either way, this trial was severe enough that Paul and his companions were led to despair even “of life itself” and felt that they “had received the sentence of death” (2 Cor. 1:8–9). The intensity of their suffering made them think that their lives might very well be lost through it.

As Paul explains, he was delivered from this great affliction (v. 10). Yet, that did not occur before Paul realized the purpose of his intense suffering—namely, to make him and the other believers rely not on themselves “but on God who raises the dead” (v. 9). Here we find important insight into why our Father allows suffering into our lives and what His comfort often looks like. Much of our suffering occurs so that we can realize that relying on ourselves is pointless and turn instead to rely ever more fully on God. Suffering in and for Christ is for the end of making us cry out to God and confess that He is ultimately all that we have and the goal of all that we desire (Ps. 73:25).

So often, we are a proud people who, even though we believe in Christ, do not fully understand our need to lean fully and completely on Him. We want to do things our own way and in our own power. But of course, we are frail and unreliable. The greatest comfort the Lord can give us is to turn our eyes away from ourselves and to Him, for only in Him is the power to face and overcome even death. He prompts this turn to Him by allowing us to suffer. John Calvin comments, “As this malady [of self-reliance] is so deeply rooted in the minds of men, that even the most advanced are not thoroughly purged from it, until God sets death before their eyes.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Suffering has a way of taking away all our illusions of self-reliance and forcing us to depend only on God and His goodness. In that sense, it is a powerful reminder from the Lord to His people. While we should not necessarily look for suffering, when it comes our way, we should allow it to focus our eyes on the Lord and our need of Him. In that way, it will contribute mightily to our sanctification.

For Further Study
  • Exodus 2:23–25
  • 1 Samuel 17
  • Isaiah 50:10
  • 1 Peter 5:6–7

The God of All Comfort

The Purpose of Prayer

Keep Reading Right Now Counts Forever

From the August 2021 Issue
Aug 2021 Issue