2 Corinthians 2:8-10 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.[1]

What is the primary purpose of this trial for Paul? It is to drive him to fully rely on God. His ministry wouldn’t have been better without the trials in his life. It would have been worse. This doesn’t mean that Paul went looking for trials and brought them on himself, but he shows in this passage that he was thankful for the fruit they produced. His trials brought him to the end of himself so that he could rely fully on God.

They might still sell these, but years ago, there were shirts and wristbands in Christian bookstores that said “FROG” fully rely on God. And they would have a picture of an adorable frog on them, which was catchy and memorable. For Paul, it took wearing the t-shirt of affliction to press this truth deep into his soul.

It often takes affliction in our life to be brought to dependence on God.

There is something called the Peter Principle in Business. The Peter Principle is an observation that the tendency in most organizational hierarchies, such as that of a corporation, is for every employee to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach the levels of their respective incompetence. They finally hit the wall of their progress.

Similarly, we can hit a wall spiritually, and it causes us to slow down and think about our lives. Have you ever heard a testimony from someone who came to trust in Jesus as their savior after something horrific happened? If you have listened to enough testimonies, you will hear people talk about how they were living their own life, thinking themselves invincible until something happened that brought them to realize they needed something – someone – outside themselves.

Is God worthy to be relied on?

It is one thing to rely on God; it is another for it to be worth it. Many of us are driven to rely on something we shouldn’t. In college, I bought a car that I thought was reliable and would get me to Pennsylvania and back on a regular basis. I was driving it into town the semester I brought it to college, and the frame broke. The frame completely gave out, and I was left on the side of the road with a broken car and wondering, “what do I do now?” 

Sometimes you may wonder if you can trust God with your life. When you need him most, will he appear like broken-down Geo Metro? Look at what Paul says about our great God. He is the One who raises the dead! This is a God who not only speaks life into existence but brings the dead to life. Bringing things to life is the very character of our God. It is something he delights in and something that he not only wants to do but has the power to do it. 

Paul learned over and over that God is worthy to be relied on. He says this of his own experience in verse 10. He had delivered Paul, and he would do it again. How quick we are to forget God’s ability to rescue, how quick we are to rely on ourselves again. The words of chapter 12 verse 9 are written into the fabric of Paul’s life “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” 

A Christian from the 4th century wrote these words relating to his own life, and they are just as relevant today. He writes, “Why are you relying on yourself only to find yourself unreliable? Cast yourself upon [the Lord God], do not be afraid. He will not withdraw himself so that you fall. Make the leap without anxiety; He will catch you and heal you.”[2]

What About You?

Christian, if you are going through a deep trial right now, don’t waste it by not depending on God. Don’t rely on yourself only to find yourself unreliable. You need something more. You need someone who can bear the weight of your struggle and pain. The One who made you and cares for you is also with you. As the hymn says, 

All your anxiety, all your care,

Bring to the mercy seat, leave it there,

Never a burden He cannot bear,

Never a friend like Jesus![3]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 1:8–10.

[2] Augustine and Henry Chadwick, Confessions, Oxford world’s classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 151-152.

{$NOTE_LABEL} https://hymnary.org/text/is_there_a_heart_oerbound_by_sorrow