That's the Book: 2nd Corinthians
I've spent the last couple weeks procrastinating writing this post. Honestly I have tried. But I haven't had the courage to fully embrace writing about 2nd Corinthians. This is the second letter Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. Paul wrote the letter to encourage the believers to hold it together during some massive hardships. I've struggled writing this post because it's all about suffering. So it hurts. Also I felt it was important not to be flippant or trite. Suffering is a sacred privilege not to be tossed around lightly.
So I've spent the last three weekends pretending to write and instead looking at twitter feeds of cute animals and playing with new emojis on my phone. I was especially distracted by the hedgehog. But the verses and the post kept sitting there asking me to show up. To think and pray and write and bleed. Sometimes we avoid people who are hurting for the same reasons. It can be uncomfortable to join.
I recently sat on the phone talking with a friend of mine. She was in pain. Needed a friend. I didn't have much to offer - except I love her - and I can stand as a testament that on my hardest days Jesus was enough. I hope the reminder helped. This is the point of 2nd Corinthians. We should carry each other's pain. Use our own as a light to point others towards the hope of Christ. Understand He will be faithful to carry us. He is enough.
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 will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:2-5
Two years ago my mother-in-law was suffering from a recent diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer. The whole family was struggling and worried. We were tired. Exhausted really. Overwhelmed with the knowledge of survival rates and heartbroken over the crisis etched in her face.
Several weeks later, in the middle of the night, I received a phone call from my father. He said my mom had fallen down the stairs. He said there was a lot of blood. She was being taken by ambulance to the hospital. I should hurry. Would I call my sister and come to the hospital? I hung up. Got out of bed. Could not stay standing. Hit my knees. Gasped. Prayed a two-word prayer.
And in that very moment I knew. In this painful awful moment at 4:00 am I knew. I knew despite the horror on multiple fronts we were not alone. I knew God's presence would not leave. God provided the strength to stand, to pick up the phone, to call my sister. The verses in 2nd Corinthians are real to me because I've been in these places. My guess is you have as well.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves, we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed, but not despairing, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4: 7-9
How do you keep going when things aren't good? When people lie and break trust? When the diagnosis is elusive? When we can't see beyond this moment?
A couple of weeks ago I sat in a writer's conference and listed to Andrew Peterson describe how he came to write the song The Dark Before the Dawn. (Listen Here).
He wrote it one morning after he woke up to news of a school shooting. You know that sick feeling? The dark is pressing in feeling? He talked about how the only way forward is to remember this is not the end.
"Oh, I believe, I believe that the light is gonna come
And this is the dark, this is the dark before the dawn."
What I learned is God's promises don't make all things joyful - yet. And this yet makes it bearable. For heaven is coming. Glory wins. Despair loses.
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For this momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18
If you are reading this and do not have the same hope; please hear me out. We all face hard times. But you don't have to do it alone. 2nd Corinthians is a beautiful invitation to join the victory.
"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us, we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2nd Corinthians 6;29-21
I think the reason my two word prayer, "I can't", was so powerful is because I came to the very end of myself. When I ran out, Jesus showed up. This is one of those upside down truths in the Bible. The weak are strong.
"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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
I've thought a lot about suffering the past couple of weeks. About what we went through and the ways God made the difference. Sometimes it was simply His presence and strength. Sometimes it looked like a friend pushing a broom, bringing a meal or answering the phone. God showed up when people showed up. I know it was hard to be around me during those days. But I'm grateful people dove in. This post was hard to write. But sharing the truth of God's power in our struggle is an honor.
Turn off your phone for a few minutes. Read 2nd Corinthians. If you are in the middle of a crisis - pray a call for help. His grace will prove enough. If your life is currently stable you may have time to lift someone else's load. Call a hurting friend or get take-out for an overwhelmed neighbor. Wrestle with your own memories and look for how God showed up. Share your story. I know it's uncomfortable to do the work to heal or to help someone else. But it's life giving. Worth the courage it takes to see it through. Second Corinthians is important. Hedgehog emoji's are not.
Andrew Peterson's song The Dark Before the Dawn.
Here you go, the next section of the Bible Project's Read Scripture series. 2nd Corinthians.
Infographic from New Spring Church. These are helpful.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
Sign up to receive Mindy's Quirk-E-Mails