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.2 Corinthians 1:9
We do not know what the trial was that Paul went through. Some think it was a severe illness. Others, and I am among them, link this verse with the record in Acts 19 of the great riot that broke out in Ephesus and the threat to the lives of all the Christians in that city. Paul must have gone through unusual emotional stress and physical threat during this time. He tells us that he was
utterly, unbearably crushed (2 Cor 1:8 RSV). That is the lowest ebb the human spirit can come to, the uttermost sense of despair. He said,
We felt that we had received the sentence of death. It was absolutely hopeless; he had given up; there was no way out. But then he adds,
But that was to make us rely not on ourselves.
One of the major reasons God sends us suffering is to break the stubborn spirit of self-will within us that insists on trying to work it all out by our own resources or run to some other human resource or in some way refuse to acknowledge that we need divine help. I find this in myself. I struggle sometimes. I do not want to pray about a certain matter, because if I pray about it, I am admitting that I cannot handle it myself. Paul must have struggled the same way.
Here is this mighty apostle, who so plainly and clearly understood the principles of how God operates, and still he had to be put through a time of testing like this that he might again learn not to rely on himself. You read the story of Saul of Tarsus, that brilliant young Pharisee, and you see a self-reliant young man who is confident that there is nothing he cannot do with that brilliant mind, that ability and logic, that strong, powerful personality. He felt he could handle anything, and repeatedly God had to break that, to put him in circumstances he could not handle, that he might learn not to rely on himself, but
on God, who raises the dead. That is the major reason, I think, for suffering, which is the pressure that is designed to destroy our determined stubbornness. Paul has learned to trust God to take him through whatever life throws at him, no matter what it is. Now that is a Christian lifestyle. It is time for some of us Christians to quit acting like the world around us, constantly complaining about everything that comes our way. We should see these problems as opportunities to display a different lifestyle and release in our own lives a quiet power that will keep our hearts at peace, because we know that an adequate God is handling the situation; He will take us safely through.
Lord, help me to stop my griping and complaining and believe that You have sent these situations deliberately to show me a better way out, a peaceful way, so that my heart is at rest because I am counting on a living God to do something that I cannot do.
Are we counting on our living Lord to accomplish what He wants to do through us, or are we frustrating and exhausting ourselves with our self-reliance and self-effort?