Suffering

Paul opened his second letter to the Corinthians with an explanation of why he hadn’t returned to visit them. Rather than sharing the details of what had happened to him , Paul talked about believers suffering. Paul told the Corinthians that God was their primary resource during difficult times and stated, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). The Greek word translated mercies, oiktirmos means pity (G3628). Oiktirmos has to do with the emotions of the heart and typically signifies compassion, a feeling of distress about the unfortunate circumstances of others.

Paul went on to explain that God comforts us in our suffering so that we can comfort others. The two Greek words Paul used that are translated comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:4 are parkaleo and paraklesis. These words mean, “to call to ones side” (G3870) or “a calling to one’s side (G3874). The idea Paul was conveying was togetherness. Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that God was by their sides when they went through difficult circumstances and he also stated that God comforts us “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (1 Corinthians 1:4, ESV).

Paul didn’t state it specifically, but he somewhat implied by his use of the word comfort that he was talking about the Holy Spirit when he said “the God of all comfort” (1 Corinthians 1:3). Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the “Comforter” (John 15:26). The Greek word translated Comforter, “parakletos is the one summoned, called to one’s side, especially called to one’s aid and is used of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand” (G3875). The Holy Spirit gives us divine strength so that we are able to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of God’s kingdom.

One of the goals of a Christian’s life is to maintain peace and harmony (G4991). As we go through our daily routines, things can happen that interfere with our peaceful existence. Paul identified three kinds of suffering that Christians have to deal with in his explanation of why he hadn’t made it back to Corinth. First, Paul talked about tribulation (2 Corinthians 1:4) which can be anything that burdens our spirit (G2347). Paul also referred to this as trouble and said, “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).

Paul also talked about the sufferings of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5). At the heart Christ’s suffering were emotions that were caused by external influences on his mind (G3804). Most likely Paul was referring to spiritual warfare, but this kind of suffering can also be caused by people who are abusing us, those who try to manipulate us into doing things we don’t want to do. Another scenario Paul mentioned was being afflicted (2 Corinthians 1:6). Affliction is the pressure of circumstances (G2346). According to Paul, affliction is what bonds us with other believers. Out of affliction comes the notion that we are in this together. Paul was essentially trying to tell the Corinthians, I feel your pain and I wish I could be there with you.

Even though he was unable to visit them in person, Paul wanted the Corinthians to know they were very important to him. Paul took his ministry responsibility seriously and didn’t intend to just leave the Corinthians hanging. In order to assure them of his commitment to return, Paul reminded the Corinthians that God had called him to minister to them and said, “I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth” (2 Corinthians 1:23). Paul had intended to encourage the Corinthians when he returned for a second visit, but because of his own suffering, Paul decided to write to them rather than talk to the Corinthians face to face.

Spiritual health

Some of the people Jesus healed were suffering from spiritual afflictions. During one of his visits to Jerusalem, Jesus went by a pool of water where miraculous healings were taking place. The Apostle John said of this incident:

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in, was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt Thou be made whole?

The Greek word Jesus used that is translated whole, hugies (hoog – ee – ace’) means healthy (5199). The base of this word indicates growth or enlargement (837). The way that we know that Jesus was dealing with this man’s spiritual condition rather than his physical condition is the command he gave him after he was healed. Jesus said to the man, “Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

The Hebrew term for whole, raphah (raw – faw’) means to mend(7495). Raphah is used figuratively to refer to someone being cured and is also translated as heal and physician in association with spiritual sicknesses identified in the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 13 -14). Raphah as a primitive root word means to slacken and is translated in various passages in the Old Testament as feeble, fail, weaken, and faint (7503). In Job 5:17-18 it says, “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: for he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” Psalm 119 uses the phrase “whole heart” several times in reference to a believers relationship with God and a healthy desire for his word. This might suggest that the healing that took place when Jesus made the man at the pool of Bethesda whole was a healing of his heart. Jesus made the man’s heart whole again.

One of the illustration’s the prophet Jeremiah used to convey the unrepentant attitude of God’s people was an earthen bottle or jar made of clay that was broken because of it’s hardened state. God told Jeremiah, “Then shalt thou break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee. And shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again” (Jeremiah 19:10-11). It is possible that the man Jesus found lying by the pool called Bethesda was suffering from a broken heart that had caused him to become so weak that he was no longer able to get out of bed. Today we might say the man was suffering from depression or some other type of mental and/or emotional illness. When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made whole (John 5:6), he was essentially saying, Are you ready to let go and begin to live your life again? Perhaps, what this man really needed to do was forgive himself for some mistake he had made that had brought about the tragedy that happened to him 38 years earlier. When Jesus commanded the man, “Rise, take up thy bed and walk” (John 5:7). It says in John 5:9, “immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked.”

I made it!

The invention of GPS has made getting lost and uncommon experience. GPS was a great invention because no one likes getting lost. It can feel like you’ve been punched in the gut or a sinking feeling in your throat like when you swallowed something that hasn’t been chewed properly. Twenty years ago, I had a job as a Field Representative, before there were Google maps and GPS. I carried a Thomas Brothers guide in my car and spent hours looking up addresses and charting courses. I got lost a lot and there were many instances when I finally arrived at my destination and thought to myself, I made it!

David said in Psalm 25, “Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths” (Psalm 25:4). The path David was referring to was “a marked-out, well-traveled course” (734). In a way, you could say that David was asking the LORD to be his GPS system, telling him when to make a right or U-turn. David had recently become king of Israel and realized that his lack of experience in making decisions could be a problem. He wanted to make sure he didn’t get off course in the role God had given him.

David said, “The meek will he guide in judgement: And the meek will he teach his way” (Psalm 25:9). David was probably thinking about Moses when he wrote this. Moses was described as being very meek, “above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). The word translated meek, ͑ânâyv (aw – nawvˊ) literally means to be depressed in mind or circumstances. “Anayv appears almost exclusively in poetical passages and describes the intended outcome of affliction from God, namely ‘humility’” (6035).

I think it is interesting that people that don’t know the Lord are described as being lost. I think it is because inside every person is the sense that life is a journey. We are all travelers on the pathway of life, but not everyone knows where they are going. When a person accepts Jesus as his or her Savior, it is like the street lights get turned on and you can begin to see in the dark. You know there is a road and that you will eventually reach your intended destination, but you have no clue how or when you will get there.

David was aware of his destiny or the destination that God had planned for him. After he became king, David realized that every step he took mattered. When he said, “Teach me thy paths” (Psalm 25:4), he was basically saying, guide me every step of the way. The word translated teach, lâmad (law – madˊ) means to goad or hit with a rod. Rather than teach, David could have said cause me to learn (3925).

When David became king, I’m pretty sure he thought to himself, I made it! But then, he realized, now I have to do my job and I have no clue how to be a king. God wants us to realize that we are helpless without him. Humility is knowing that you are entirely dependent on God. He can see and understands everything. There is nothing that He hasn’t already experienced and He wants to help us. All we have to do is say show me and He will.

Don’t be a fool

“Fools because of their transgression and because of their iniquities, are afflicted” (Psalm 107:17). A fool is someone that lives by his own resources (191). The fool believes that he can figure things out on his own and does not rely on godly wisdom.

The problem with fools is they often get into trouble that they do not have sufficient experience or resources to get out of. Teenagers are great examples of fools because they by nature want to be independent and aren’t aware of the risks they are taking.

Transgression is willful rebellion. The person who commits a transgression is trying to break away from authority and establish their independence (6586/6588). Again, teenagers are perfect examples of people who transgress because by nature teenagers want independence, their goal is to break away from their parents’ authority.

Iniquity is in essence the crossing of a line between normal and abnormal behavior. By definition, iniquity is perversion. In some cases, iniquity is not intentional. It can be a trap that someone falls into such as drug addition or prostitution. It could be that transgression leads to iniquity through the gradual decay of a person’s moral character.

To be afflicted means to be bowed down or humbled. It also means to be meek or depressed (6031/6035). The purpose of affliction is not punishment, but discipline. It has the connotation of learning from one’s mistakes. Moses is described as being very meek (Numbers 12:3), probably because of the mistake he made in killing the Egyptian who was mistreating an Israelite slave.

The greatest thing that can happen to a person that is always getting into trouble is to become aware of their need for independence. Independence in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is only when a person turns his back on God and thinks he can make it through life without God’s help that a person becomes a fool.

As good as dead

I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength: Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand. (Psalm 88:4-5)

A question often asked about God is why do bad things happen to good people? It is assumed that only good things should happen to good people. The truth is that good and bad things happen to all people.

One of the outcomes of free choice is that people make bad choices as well as good choices and therefore, get mixed results, both good and bad. My granddaughter who is one year old likes to play with my stereo receiver. When I was out of the room, she decided to turn the volume knob all the way up. The sound was so loud it hurt her ears and made her cry. She learned that turning the knob all the way up produced a bad result and hasn’t done it since.

Unfortunately, not everyone learns from the bad results they get and sometimes choose to ignore the results they get until it is too late. My dad was an alcoholic who drank excessively until he was 65. After he stopped drinking, his health improved significantly and he thought he would live to be 100. When he was 72, he was diagnosed with cancer and died six weeks later.

The day that I went down into the pit was the day my ex-husband called me and told me he was having an affair. I had been a Christian for almost 20 years, but in the moment that the news sunk in, I felt as miserable as I had the night I overdosed on sleeping pills, a few weeks before giving my life to Christ. Psalm 88 expresses perfectly how I felt for about a year afterward.

The difference between the two situations in my life was when I found out my ex-husband was having an affair, even though I felt dead inside for awhile, I recovered. From that point forward, I made a conscious decision to make choices that would bring good results, not bad. Like the Psalmist, I thought, “Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves” (Psalm 88:7), but I knew it wasn’t the end of my life or my dreams.

In Psalm 88:10, the Psalmist asks, “Wilt thou show wonder to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise thee?” I believe the answer to both questions is yes, because Jesus rose from the dead. The power to rise from the dead resides in every Believer. We can choose to live and overcome whatever afflictions come into our lives.