Blessings of Life in the Minor Key

 

PAUL SHARED HIS STRUGGLES

There are only ten basic words for suffering in the Greek language, and Paul uses five of them in this letter of Second Corinthians. Most frequently he uses thlipsis. This word means “narrow, confined, under pressure.” In 2 Corinthians it is translated affliction (2 Corinthians 2:4; 4:17), tribulation (2 Corinthians 1:4), and trouble (2 Corinthians 1:4, 8). Paul’s emotions responded to his circumstances. He felt hemmed in by difficulties, and the only way he could look was up. And that is exactly the lesson David had learned a thousand years before Paul, in Psalm 142. 

As believers our joy is internal, and like our hope is from above.  Look at Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:8. Even though Paul was discouraged by his circumstances, he still had spiritual joy. Discouragement is no respecter of persons. In fact, discouragement seems to attack the successful far more than the unsuccessful; for the higher we climb, the farther down we can fall.  

  • 2 Corinthians 1:8 “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.”  

We are not surprised then when we read that the great Apostle Paul was “pressed out of measure” and “despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8). Great as Paul was in all of his spiritual maturity, he was still human just like the rest of us. 

When Paul did an inventory of his emotional state he described his emotions as battered as if besieged on a battlefield—with no possible earthly escape. 

  • 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed (surrounded but not cut off); we are perplexed, but not in despair ((pressed at every side but never abandoned by God); 9 persecuted, but not forsaken (end of way out but not end of hope); struck down, but not destroyed (knocked down but not knocked out)—  

Paul also in another book said that he experienced “great sorrow and unceasing grief” (Rom. 9:2) over the plight of unbelieving Israel.  But no matter what his emotional state, or his circumstances, Paul knew that God is in control.  

Later he wrote, "We were afflicted on every side; conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus" (2 Corinthians 7:5-6 NASV).  

So the mighty Paul was depressed. Paul did not deny the way he felt, nor does God want us to deny our emotions. Because of this spiritual transparency and honesty--Paul was never ashamed to ask Christians to pray for him.  

In at least seven of his letters, he mentioned his great need for prayer support (Rom. 15:30–32; Eph. 6:18–19; Phil. 1:19; Col. 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Philemon 22). Paul and the believers in Corinth were helping each other by prayer.  

THEY SHARED STRUGGLES, THEY SHARED PRAYERS

Difficulties should draw us closer to other Christians as we share our burdens. Difficulties can be used to glorify God. So, when you find yourself in the trials of life, remember what God has promised us, and what He has commanded us to do. Look at 2 Corinthians 1:11. 

  • 2 Corinthians 1:11 “You also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.” 

The word sunopourgeo translated “helping together” is used only here in the Greek New Testament and is composed of three words: 'with, under, work’. It is a picture of laborers under the burden, working together to get the job accomplished. Paul enlists the help of other believers holding him up in his emotional, physical, and spiritual struggles. This was in addition to the promise we have that the Holy Spirit also assists us in our praying and helps to carry the load (Rom. 8:26). 

Turn back to I Thessalonians 5. In this chapter there are more imperative commands than in any other paragraph in God's Word. It is one of the clearest descriptions of the basic duties of a believer in Christ's church. We must take seriously Paul's fifth, sixth, and seventh command to "encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men" (1 Thessalonians 5:14).  

1 Thessalonians 5:11-26

  1. v.11a Therefore comfort each other
  2. v. 14b comfort the fainthearted,
  3. v. 14c uphold the weak,
  4. v. 14d be patient with all.  

In Psalm 142 we find David’s testimony that explains how he kept from being sidelined and paralyzed by depression. This is a divine insight into something James said that we are all “subject to like passions”. 

David wrote down how God helped him to not get his life and emotions dragged down by those around him. As we read these verses note the emotional condition of everyone that joined up with David. They were a very needy group. And in all their need, they invaded the life of someone just coming out of the pits. It was just the right recipe for a relapse by David into despair and a return into the pits. But the good news is—that didn’t happen, and the reason why is just what we are going to learn from God's Word. 

What did this tough crowd around David do to him? They depressed him! How did David, so prone to doubt, discouragement and depression—overcome this hard, troublesome time? Psalm 142 holds the key! 

Trapped in a cave David sat with four hundred fellow fugitives. That’s his address in Psalm 142. From the cave of Adullam he looks up and discovers some great truths about God.  

Here is David’s cry from the cave in Psalm 142:1-7: 

“I cry out to the Lord with my voice; with my voice to the Lord I make my supplication. 2 I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare before Him my trouble. 3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, Then You knew my path. In the way in which I walk They have secretly set a snare for me. 4 Look on my right hand and see, For there is no one who acknowledges me; Refuge has failed me; No one cares for my soul. 5 I cried out to You, O Lord: I said, “You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living. 6 Attend to my cry, For I am brought very low; Deliver me from my persecutors, For they are stronger than I. 7 Bring my soul out of prison, That I may praise Your name; The righteous shall surround me, For You shall deal bountifully with me.”

 What simple lessons can we find in cave times? Use lonely times to grow. One of the greatest truths we can discover is that lonely times usually accomplish great discoveries about God. David is at the depth of loneliness. He has been on the run for years and now he is hiding in a desolate cave in a crowd of malcontents, feeling very much alone. He has two choices. Stay in the cave of loneliness, descend into self-pity and sin or look up and use the time alone to grow.  

What can depression, discouragement and faintheartedness do for us? If we cry out to the Lord—it can inspire us to some of the deepest and greatest discoveries about God we can ever make. 

In perhaps his deepest depression he wrote one of Christendom's greatest hymns. The Reformer who penned "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," Martin Luther, in 1527 wrote:  

"For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost."  

And here is Luther’s testimony about the great discoveries he made about God while he was, as he described the experience of much of his life as being: in melancholy, heaviness, depression, dejection of spirit; downcast, sad, and downhearted.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal. 

Did we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth is His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle. 

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him. 

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

 

 

For more from Discover the Book Ministries, please visit  discoverthebook.org.