Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself … But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9
What is your picture of a resilient person? One radiating health and vitality? Carefree under pressure? Stoic in adversity with a perpetual bounce in their step? If so, then the apostle Paul would not qualify.
The biblical picture of resilience begins with the source of our power and energy. Whilst skills, health and vitality are gifts from God to be stewarded well, we are repeatedly warned against the dangers of self-reliance (Deuteronomy 8:17-18; Proverbs 3:5). In fact, Paul is clear that the hardships he suffered – hardships that caused him to despair of life – were used by God to wean him from dependence on his own natural resilience and to catapult him into a deeper level of God-reliance. His weakness became the opportunity for God’s power to be displayed.
This process is far from comfortable, and yet Paul has just described God as ‘the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles’ (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)! If God’s comfort is not evident in the ease of our circumstances and the absence of trouble, how then does it manifest itself? Paul’s answer: hope! Paul has the absolute conviction that the God who has delivered him from current danger will continue to do so: ‘on him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers’ (2 Corinthians 1:10-11). Paul allows each difficulty he faces to drive him deeper into God’s sufficiency and to covet the prayers of his fellow believers. This is what true resilience looks like.
And so, as we look to the start of 2020, let the words of Minnie Louise Haskins be ours: ‘I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”’
The apostle Paul knew the reality of that, and so can we.
Prayer Journeys Project Leader, LICC