April 29, 2009
We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it (v.8).
READ: 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
I was gawking, but I couldn’t help myself. Painted over a century ago, van Gogh’s Sunflowers lit up the museum wall in front of me. I wondered at how such a broken man could create an image brimming with beauty. Vincent suffered from mental disorders, financial difficulty, and other challenges. Yet, he produced almost 900 paintings within 10 years.
Like van Gogh, the apostle Paul endured significant lifelong struggles—but his career for Christ flourished. At one point, he wrote, “We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure” (2 Cor 1:8). In other words, he was pretty sure the end was near, but something kept him going.
What was Paul’s secret? He spelled it out for us when he wrote, “We . . . learned to rely only on God” (v.9). Most of us would be fine with that statement, except for one word: only. A successful life in Christ requires all of God’s wisdom, all of His love, all of His enabling power, all of His protection—not our own.
Relying only on God helps us develop confidence in Him. Paul had a bit of a spiritual swagger, but it was because of his firsthand experience with the Almighty. He announced, “We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us” (v.10). Paul was free to go on ministering because he was not pinned down by despair or frozen by fear.
My point is this: We can be productive for Christ as we deal with strain and struggles. Jesus was not naive when He said, “I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit” (John 15:16). He knew life on earth was messy. He also knew that trusting in God alone would produce the confidence necessary to go on lighting up the world around us, just as van Gogh’s sunflowers still shine brightly today. —Jennifer Benson Schuldt
How have you allowed struggles to prevent you from bearing fruit for God? How will your life in Jesus look different as you rely only on Him?