There are times we feel stuck in suffering. We look around and see no way out. The hurt is so deep, so constant, and everything we’ve tried to counteract the pain so ineffective, we feel helpless and hopeless. Or, as Paul put it, “in our hearts we felt the sentence of death,” (2 Corinthians 1:9).
That’s pretty severe.
On the heels of our discussion about whether or not God gives us more than we can handle, I find it interesting that Paul said this to the believers in Corinth, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life,” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
Paul. Super apostle. He had experienced Jesus in an incomprehensibly amazing way during his salvation experience. Yet, when the crap hit the fan, even Paul “despaired of life.” Sometimes life is just too hard. For all of us.
So what do we do when the pressure of circumstances are “far beyond our ability to endure”? We still have to live the day to day. Make choices. Accomplish tasks. Take care of families. Go to jobs. Participate in life. How do we do these things when life feels like a death sentence?
Paul says hardships and unbearable pressure happen, “that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead,” (2 Corinthians 1:9).
When we feel like life is a death sentence, we are to rely on Him who literally raises the dead.
God is in the business of redeeming that which seems unredeemable. That includes people, yes, but it also includes hardships and pressures, circumstances that seem too far gone or too overwhelming to overcome.
It’s true that you and I cannot raise anything from the dead. We cannot go to a funeral, stand over the casket, call out the person’s name, and tell him to arise. But Jesus literally did that (Lazarus, John 11:38-44). God the Father literally did that too (Jesus, Matthew 28:5-6).
Just as God is capable of resurrecting dead people, He is capable of resurrecting the “dead” parts of our lives. Dead relationships. Dead careers. Dead ministries. Dead communities. Dead parts of ourselves – from physical infirmities to emotional sinkholes. Anything that is dead, He came to give it life.
We’ve seen that in our pasts. We can all come up with a time or two when we “felt the sentence of death”, and God, somehow or another, delivered us. (If you’re having trouble seeing past your despair to remember such a time, think about your salvation story. He delivered you from a literal death sentence – Hell – and gave you eternal life when you “got saved”.)
Paul encourages us to reflect on redemptive moments in our pasts so, in our current hardships and pressures, hope will well up in our hearts. “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,” (2 Corinthians 1:10).
If life is unbearable right now, take heart. Remember how He has taken great care of you in the past, and set your hope on His goodness and power to deliver you from your current plight.
As long as God is still God, nothing is hopeless. Nothing.