“. . . but as servant of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; . . .”
(2 Corinthians 6:4-5)
One of the themes common to this week’s lectionary readings is trusting in God’s providential care over us. The experiences Paul lists here encompass a wide range of painful and unpleasant events. In the midst of such things he did not compromise the word of God or forsake his calling. In fact, Paul enumerated them joyfully as marks or credentials that legitimized his ministry and love for God and his brethren. He knew that the Lord sustained him in the midst of these experiences and allowed them to befall him for His glory and for the sake of the gospel.
Paul’s experiences may make us tremble with fear. Indeed we would be foolish to think that suffering of any type is easy. But suffering in Christ for the cause of the gospel is far better than suffering for sin. We may think we are not capable of enduring what Paul did and manage to keep the faith in the midst of such suffering, pain and persecution. Yet the Lord will set limits on all we endure and will not let us suffer beyond what His strength imparts to us. He will suffer alongside us. And our faithful endurance will carry the light of God’s love to all who see it.