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. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 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, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 (NIV)
The Apostle Paul does not want us to be uninformed about the hardships he walked through. Interestingly, he writes regarding his circumstances that they were “far beyond our ability to endure” – even to the point of despairing of life. God oftentimes places us in trials such as these – circumstances so totally out of our control – so that we will not rely on flesh and blood rather on the mighty Hand of God. These trials are not to make us sweat or fearful or wring our hands in despair. Rather they are permitted in order that we might take our eyes off self – and place them on the One Who is in control of all things. Trust and obey – leaning not on our own understanding. In all our ways acknowledging Him and He will make our paths straight, the wise man writes.
Often, Christ embitters our circumstances so that He might be all the more sweeter to us. His desire is to be our Pearl of great price. He does not want us to secure our souls to lesser objects of nature as they will always be found wanting. We were not made to trust and rest in the temporal rather on the eternal. It is in Christ alone. He is to be our hope, sufficiency and strength throughout all of life. All other worldly comforts and props are nice but certainly not necessary. When our sufficiency and strength are met in Him, we are a force for good and a scourge to Satan. Just like the heroes of Hebrews Eleven whom the world was not worthy of.
Our groans and sighs move the mighty Hand of God. He is to be our sufficiency and strength and He remains closest to His child in the fire – ask Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when you get to heaven. God knows the hearts of all men and He strengthens them as they walk through their “Valleys of Baca (tears)” often taking them from “strength to strength”, “till each appears before God in Zion”. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Psalms 84:11 (NIV)