That’s the easiest question to ask and the hardest to answer.
Why do people suffer? Why do our best-laid plans fall apart? Why do the people we love make life difficult for us? Why doesn’t God answer our prayers and change our circumstances? Why can’t life be easier? Why, Lord? And why me?
We live in difficult days, and they aren’t about to get easier. Each stage of life brings with it special joys and challenges, and also special trials and sorrows. Nobody is exempt from the battles of life.
Though he lived centuries ago, the apostle Paul knew a great deal about the problems and the difficulties people go through today. Human nature and human problems haven’t really changed that much since Paul wrote the letter we call 2 Corinthians. His theme?
“Be encouraged! It’s always too soon to quit!”
This is the most intimate letter Paul ever wrote. In it, he bared his heart and described some of the difficult experiences he went through and how the Lord gave him the encouragement he needed day after day. Paul didn’t just endure the trials of life, nor did he selfishly try to escape them. Instead, he learned how to enlist them to build a life that triumphed over pain and problems and brought glory to God.
Your daily study of this ancient letter can help you follow Paul’s example and trust Paul’s God, the God who still says, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul can show you how to make your difficulties work for you and not against you.
Our English word “discourage” means “without heart.” When Christ is Lord of your life, He can put into your heart the courage you need to face life with its problems and be a victor, not a victim.
No matter what the feelings within you or the circumstances around you or the pressures against you, you can be encouraged! And you can encourage others.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 CORINTHIANS 1:3–4
Paul began his letter with a doxology. He certainly could not sing about his circumstances, but he could sing about the God who is in control of all circumstances. Paul had learned that praise is an important factor in achieving victory over discouragement and depression.
In 2 Corinthians Paul praised God for present blessings, for what God was accomplishing then and there. During the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War, Pastor Martin Rinkart faithfully served the people in Eilenburg, Saxony. He conducted as many as forty funerals a day, a total of more than four thousand during his ministry. Yet out of this devastating experience, he wrote a “table grace” for his children, which today we use as a hymn of thanksgiving:
Now thank we all our God,
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom His world rejoices!
Whatever the Father did for Jesus when He was ministering on earth, He is able to do for us today. We are dear to the Father because His Son is dear to Him, and we are citizens of “the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Col. 1:13). We are precious to the Father, and He will see to it that the pressures of life do not destroy us.
1. As you begin this book, what reasons do you have to offer God thanksgiving and praise?
2. For what are you seeking comfort today?
3. What might you need to do to better comprehend the love that God has for you?