The Apostle Paul talks about the pressures he faced in II Corinthians 1:8-9.
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
Pressure is not new to the human story. We face all kinds of pressures, from work deadlines to the pressures family and friends place on us to live up to some set of expectations, to time and energy management, and beyond. Paul tells us that the pressures he felt actually caused him to despair of life itself, which says to me that circumstances had taken a turn for the worse, personal strength, physically, emotionally, maybe even spiritually was depleted, and life looked hopeless. As he looked at his situation he looks back and gives it perspective: “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
What he reminds us is that God is Sovereign; a biblical truth that secures our feet on solid ground as we pass through the storms of life. We’re reminded of two things here:
God is sovereign in good times and bad, always working his “All Things Plan” (Romans 8:28) for our growth and His glory, always working to bring something good out of even the darkest night. It means that there is nothing that happens to us that catches Him by surprise. Indeed, the testimony of people like Paul has consistently been that though they never saw coming the change in their circumstances God did and was ahead of them in putting people and things in place to help them get through. Our further testimony is that in those moments God gave us all the grace we needed, all the strength required to sustain us even when we “despair of life.” Never too much, Never too little! In those moments His love is what we cling to, for His everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27) are underneath us carrying us until we can take our first steps. There is a beautiful picture of what Christ does for those whose strength is exhausted in Isaiah 40:11 “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Circumstances that are difficult are not the absence of God’s love and care but often the proving ground of them where we discover again that He is our strength.
God permits trials. If there is one thing about us as human beings that is true it is that we are fiercely independent, a DNA torch passed from Adam and Eve to their offspring in every generation since. We stubbornly acknowledge it in our lives, often determinedly guard it, and are loath to surrender it but often our trials challenge us to do just that. Sometimes God permits trials to wean us off of self-trust so we can increase our trust in Him. Sometimes it is to take away our false supports so we can find our true support in the Christ who died for us. Sometimes trials come to cure our wandering hearts and remind us there is still a Prodigal Father who welcomes home repentant sinners. Whatever the reasons may be for God permitting trials in our lives the one thing that is clear is that He will use them to invite us into a deeper place of communion with Him, He will prove His faithfulness and love to us, and remind us that whatever we go through we will never go through alone.
We come back to the promise Paul gave us: “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” We may never be able to resolve all the issues around the question of why things happen to us but we can resolve that God loves us and longs to draw us deeper into relationship with Himself, and less dependent on ourselves. We may be pressurized but that pressure can turn coal to diamonds.
Zechariah 9:16 “The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock.
"They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.”
May all our trials turn to diamonds that can reflect the light of God’s glory!