Friday, January 3, 2020 -
I call the first chapter of II Corinthians the “comfort chapter,” for it will bring tears of joy in the Lord, as it did for me, to anyone who is suffering affliction and studies it closely. For our God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort! It is He who comforts us in all our afflictions (vs. 3-4). Note that the word “all” appears twice, once as a declaration that all comfort comes from God, and secondly, that there is no affliction that is too great for God to bring comfort – He comforts us in ALL our affliction!
There is no limit as to the severity of our affliction and to which God can bring comfort. Look at Paul’s own description of his suffering: “We were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves” (vs. 8-9). But Paul does not end it there, he tells us why God allows us to be brought to this point of desperation, “in order that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and WILL deliver us, on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us” (vs. 9-10).
Here then is where the community of believers comes in, for Paul continues, “… You are also joining in helping us through your prayers, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed upon us through the prayers of many” (v.11).
Every time I read this passage in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, I break down with praise, adoration, and thanksgiving to the God of mercy and comfort, for I know how true these words have been for me. My despair at times has been excessive, beyond my strength, to the point where I recognized God as my only hope. Indeed He is! This is the point where God desires me to be. Nothing I can do can rescue me from my affliction. I am hopeless in myself and in human endeavor. God alone is my refuge! The fear and trepidation walking through the prison doors on December 5, 2018, being handcuffed and tossed into an isolated cell, contemplating that this would be my life for the next three years, brought me to that point of complete dependence on the Lord. Then, two months later, when Kathie, my wife, was afflicted with pneumonia and I was so fearful and broken that I’d never see her again in this life, I cried out to the Lord in desperation. But many people were praying for us, and just as with Paul, those prayers of many made the remarkable difference.
I think back now, as the days and weeks plod slowly along, how long 36 months is. How can these men be here for 10, 20, or 30 years survive without the mercy and comfort of the Father? It became obvious that unless they know the Lord they cling to bitterness and to themselves. But I must cling to the Lord, the God of mercy, and put my hope completely in Him, encouraging those around me to do the same. This is part of my purpose for being here. Over time I have seen how that hope in spite of desperation is permeating to the spirits of others and lives around me begin to change for which I praise God.
So many, both within this prison and without, are telling me that my time here would be shortened and that I would be completely vindicated. Yet, from a human standpoint, this seemed impossible and I still believe from a human standpoint there is no hope. Yet we serve a mighty God. It is here where God’s comfort comes into play when we put our hope and confidence in Him. As we, like Paul, can say from experience, “indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves, in order that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises from the dead, who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us” (vs. 9-10). God has delivered me from death— spiritual and physical death. The many miracles he has already performed against all odds in our lives demonstrate that nothing is too great for God to overcome; as long as I trust and obey. God will rescue, God will vindicate. He promises this over and over again throughout Scripture as long as we heed the word of God in our affliction. As Paul says, “but if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation, or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort” (vs. 6-7).
And so today, I pray for you, that whatever suffering and affliction you are going through that our God of miracles and mercy will comfort your heart as He has mine. Nothing is too great for God. He will get us both through this. He promises, as long as we put our trust completely in Him. Thank you, for your joining and helping us through your prayers!