By Elizabeth Prata
Yesterday in part 1 I got personal, which is hard to do. But the Lord must be praised for what He does in our lives and that goes for me too. I can’t praise Him for His comfort and kindness if I never seem to have any trouble.
I do try to stay positive, because after all, we are co-heirs to the Kingdom, have treasure stored in heaven, and possess the greatest gift of all eternal life- salvation through Jesus and His indwelling Spirit. Believers have escaped the wrath of God because of Jesus’s voluntary death and His resurrection. It’s all good, literally.
But the boots on the ground, coming to terms with that gets harder to preach when trouble comes. Which is why trouble comes.
Paul had constant trouble and asked three times for the Lord to relieve him of it.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. (2 Corinthians 12:8).
The Lord declined. He had His reasons. It was so that Paul would not become conceited after having been given such great revelations. (2 Corinthians 12:7). John had received surpassingly great revelations, too, and in one case, John wrote a whole book about it. To my knowledge John was not given specific trouble to keep him from being conceited. The Lord tailors our afflictions to our internal needs, which only He knows. So I accepted the troubles because I trust Him.
During the last months I prayed, sought the Lord in His word, and waited. It’s what I know to do and what we’re instructed to do as we work and live on this earth. My prayers included asking to appropriately glorify Him through it. I was not successful with that as much as I should have been. I became gloomy and too introspective, which I have a tendency to do anyway.
I felt like I was in a vise, being squeezed from every direction. Tightly. My constriction felt severe.
As I was studying one day, I happened on a word for afflictions from external circumstances, a pressure, called thlipsis, from thlibo. I wanted to learn more. But the more I searched the more I could not get a handle on it. The meaning didn’t settle completely in my mind though I searched and searched.
So I waited some more.
I spoke about it with a friend at church. I wish I could say I was godly, but the conversation from my part was just complaining. Grumbling, Worrying. All sins. When I got home I repented of that. Again.
The next morning as I was closing my Bible and the pages flipped closed, I suddenly saw from barely the corner of my eye, a verse.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10).
BLAM! Well that hit me right in the face. No matter that I’d read it a hundred times, this time the Spirit impressed it to my heart and mind with an illumination that made me sit up in my chair. This is a blessing and a relief and a grace I value and love. I’m humbled when He illuminates the scripture to me in such a way.
I laser-focused on verse 8, We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair
I laser-laser focused on the word afflicted. It was thlipsis! Strong’s-
Cognate: 2346 thlíbō (the root of 2347 /thlípsis, reflecting an original “b”/bēta) – properly, rub together, constrict (compress), i.e. pressed together; (figuratively) oppressively afflict (distress), i.e. like when circumstances “rub us the wrong way” that make us feel confined (hemmed in); restricted to a “narrow” place. See 2347 (thlipsis).
It helped just reading the verse. Just reading it. I felt all my perplexity and afflictions melt away. This peace can only be from Him. It surpassed my understanding.
I’m still afflicted, a number of things are coming like a train. But I feel comforted about it. The Word itself was like a pin that pricked the balloon and gave me comfort. From 2 Corinthians 4:8 Paul gives wisdom. The Spirit illuminated it in my mind and helps me apply it. The MacArthur commentary on the passage gives further explanation.
I turned to my MacArthur commentary for verse 8. I read,
By a series of four contrasts, the apostle demonstrated that his inabilities did not cripple his ability to minister. First, he was afflicted in every way, but not crushed
Afflicted is from the verb thlibo and refers to being under pressure. As noted above, Paul was under constant physical and spiritual pressure, so much so that he wrote earlier in his epistle that he was “burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
But despite the pressure, Paul was not crushed. Crushed is from the verb stenochoreo, which refers to being confined to a narrow, tight place. The pressure he faced could not keep Paul’s ministry bottled up.
Second, Paul was perplexed but not despairing. The Greek text contains a play on words, the participles translated perplexed and despairing are from the verbs aporeo and exaporeo, respectively. He was at a loss, but not a total loss. He was at his wit’s end, but there was still a way out; he was at the brink of defeat, but not defeated.
I’ll spare you the rest of the explanation. The paragraphs really spoke to me. I was truly relieved to read this, and there is no earthly reason why. I’m still afflicted I’m still in the midst of my little trials. Certainly I am weak, unable, and powerless. Yet, we have a LORD who sees.
He saw Hagar in the wilderness crying. (Genesis 16:1-13). He spoke to her. He told her to go back and submit to her mistress. He also promised her that her descendants would increase and be too numerous to count. Her afflictions didn’t only not evaporate but increased as when she returned things got worse.
But she blessed him and was comforted by the fact that He saw and spoke to her. She named God El Roi, the God Who Sees.
We are not blessed with personal visits from an incarnated Jesus as Hagar was blessed by a visit from a pre-incarnate Jesus. But the Spirit indwelling us speaks to us and comforts through His word.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
How can His power be made perfect in me unless I acknowledge my weakness? How can I boast of my weakness and His strength unless I acknowledge my weakness?
My goal is to be purposely joyful in the face of tremendous pressure (thlipsis) from external circumstances. Since the Lord is obviously the author of these pressures and troubles I’ve been experiencing, I can only maintain a joyful confidence in the face of them, as Paul did and said we must, in 2 Corinthians 4:8
I will pray for strength to be joyfully confident. But also people will not know it’s the Lord’s strength and confidence & not mine unless I reveal my pressure-ridden trials and attribute to Him the result. That is what this 2-part testimony is about.
He has given me understanding in the scriptures. He has given me peace by dissolving my increasing perplexity and feeling of being crushed. These are the gifts. We have a Lord who sees. We have a Lord who hears. I will try always to look to Him, boast in my weakness, and pray His work in me continues, no matter how uncomfortable it becomes. This isn’t an easy prayer, but it’s a necessary one.
Jesus is compassionate in His majesty and majestic in His compassion.
I am always leery of proclaiming a testimony. I’m not skilled and rather untactful and I don’t want to make it about me. It’s about Jesus. I pray that I’ve touted Jesus and His wonderful work in me this week to Him. All glory goes to Him.