We want to remind you brethren of the afflictions we endured….The burdens laid on us were great—so overwhelming, we despaired of life itself. (2 Cor 1:8).
Have you ever felt picked on? I mean have you ever come to the point where you believed life or God or the universe had it in for you? After surviving Stage IV cancer and a serious heart attack all in the same year, Matt, a good brother from church approached me.
“Wade,” he said, “Don’t feel you’re being picked on. It’s not so unusual for someone with cancer to then suffer a heart attack.” I felt comfort from Matt’s concern but also remembered Tevye’s comment when he felt picked on. In Fiddler on the Roof, he was complaining to God about all the troubles he and his fellow Jews suffered, “I know, I know. We are your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t you just choose someone else?”
I don’t remember exactly how I answered Matt, but it was something like this, “I do feel picked on, Matt, just not quite the way you might think. ‘Picked’ also means chosen and in a strange way I believe I’ve been picked to face these trials for a reason—a positive reason.”
Paul understood one important reason. ”We felt the sentence of death on us so that we should not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 Cor. 1:9) His faith echos the psalmist’s joyful cry, “Thou hast delivered my soul from death!” (Psalm 116:8). Being helpless can be a great thing, because we are forced to rely completely on God’s amazing grace.
In his second letter to Corinth, Paul catalogued his many near-death disasters. “I have been whipped thirty-nine stripes by the Jews five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned, ship-wrecked, endured perils of storm, flood, desert heat, attacks by bandits, pagans and false Christians—knowing exhaustion, pain, hunger, thirst, and cold,”(2 Corinthians 11:25-26) He doesn’t even mention the time he was bitten by a poisonous snake.
Paul developed an unshakeable faith in God as He witnessed first-hand God’s power to literally raise him from the dead. So here’s another reason we suffer. To increase our faith as we experience God’s power to deliver us from evil and the evil one.
Chosen to Suffer? It’s hard to say this in a culture where suffering and pain is often viewed as worse than death. Yet say them we must, remembering Jesus was also chosen to suffer, and not just on the cross. Living in this world, just and true as he was, had to be a source of constant suffering. And in his trials we find yet another reason God allows it: “Though he was God’s Son, it was necessary for him to learn obedience through suffering.” (Hebrews 5:8).
Trust and Obey. Picked on? Yes, and what a privilege to be so attacked by the Enemy since it shows we are viewed as a threat. But, like Paul, we have been chosen by God to undergo these trials from disciplining hand of God to learn to trust him but also to obey him.
When and if you are so chosen remember you are in good company and also recall Paul’s exhortation: “Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying.” (Romans 12:12).