Monday, July 9Scripture Reading—II Corinthians 11:16-33
Here we go again! Paul’s talking about himself. He’s trying, one more time to defend himself against interlopers in Corinth who are trying to usurp his authority as an apostle and founder of the church thereby building themselves up and making Paul look bad. But in this passage, Paul not only lists his own impressive credentials—credentials that elevate his status to that of his Jewish Christian critics—a Hebrew, an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a minister of Christ. “I’m all that you are, and more,” he seems to be saying to his detractors. Paul decides to play the role of the fool and name all of his weaknesses, failures, and hardships. It’d be a great stand-up comedy routine, every bit as ironically funny as Rodney Dangerfield or Jerry Seinfeld, in its focus on personal weakness. Paul may be speaking ironically, but he’s not fabricating. He’d experienced all the things he described. He’d been beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and imprisoned. He’d been hungry, thirsty, and homeless. The main proof of his apostleship and his faith in Christ was his weakness, his failure, his suffering, his ridicule by others. Many lessons could be drawn from Paul’s “fool’s speech” as some call it. But one of the main things for all of us to consider is what we make of the suffering, sickness, disappointment, and failure that come to us. Many of us see such things as a signs of punishment or divine disfavor. Some of us conclude that because of the magnitude of human suffering in the world, there can be no God, and if there is a God, that deity is neither all good nor all powerful. Astonishingly, Paul concludes just the opposite—all that he’d suffered was a sign of God’s presence with him. His sufferings were a badge of divine favor, proof of his faithfulness to God’s call, even in the face of adversity. I know it is awfully hard for us to interpret all our sufferings through this lens. But at the very least, I hope and pray that when you go through hardship, suffering, sickness, or adversity of any kind, with the help of Paul’s perspective, you will not conclude that God is not good, powerful or loving. More than anything, I hope that your suffering never persuades you that God does not love you, care for you, or intend your ultimate salvation!
Thought for the day: Suffering is an aspect of life for all of us. The perspective of faith allows us to see that even in the greatest moments of suffering and adversity, God still loves and cares for us.
Prayer: O God, I acknowledge that suffering, my own and others, often gives me reason to question where you are and what you intend. Help me, to have a faith like Paul’s, a faith that enables me to put my suffering in your hands, and to trust that you love me, care for me, and will give me all the courage and faith I need to endure whatever comes my way. Amen.