We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed . . . .

 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (ESV)

Even before Jesus went to the Cross and overcame death and the grave, He told His disciples that in this world they would have trouble, but there would be nothing to fear because He had overcome the world (John 16:33, David’s Paraphrase). At least we were warned. However, I sometimes wonder if I am the only one who sometimes asks of the Lord, “Is this current trainwreck I’m enduring the sort of thing of which You were speaking?” If it was Jesus who prepared us for what was to come, it was certainly Paul who best described those moments when they arrived.

There can be little argument that Paul personally experienced more of the trials which can befall a Christian for their faith than anyone else in Scripture. He was arrested on multiple occasions, beaten severely, left for dead, shipwrecked and, to add insult to injury, snakebit. When religious persecution was insufficient to break him, it seems as if the very forces of nature turned on him. Of course, we know there are no coincidences or accidents with God and these perils only added to Paul’s passion for the Gospel and his reliance upon the Holy Spirit’s grace to carry him through.

But there is a definite similarity between Paul’s experiences and those that we encounter—though ours may seem much less dramatic and we are far less heroic by comparison. The similarity is found in that for both Paul—and us—the trials serve not only to build our own faith, but to be witnessed by those who need to observe true faith in action. It is a beautiful thing to observe God’s people giving Him the praise He deserves for the blessings of life that so many may take for granted. But, in the midst of desperate circumstance where life itself may hang in the balance, the world needs to see a picture of what “afflicted, but not crushed” actually looks like.

We can always be sure that God’s grace will be enough to see us through our desperate moments and that we will have hope that bends but does not break.