We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT)
Self-condemnation is one of the most debilitating struggles we have as believers. As if we did not have enough to overcome in walking in the grace and freedom Jesus Christ gives us as His children, the memories of past failures and current frustrations can all but paralyze our efforts to live victorious lives. Furthermore, the enemy compounds our diminished view of ourselves by sowing the lie that we are not only alone, but somehow spiritually deficient in our suffering. After all, everyone knows that “God never places on us more than we can bear, right?”
It was a great day when I began to understand that the great heroes of the faith underwent seasons of pain and frustration just like I do. The perils of the Apostle Paul are legendary in Christian history. For me, however, what he learned through his pain was as life-changing as the Scripture he wrote. If Paul could have moments where the burdens of life were too heavy, then it is entirely possible that being overwhelmed by the circumstances of life can be part of the normal Christian experience!
Paul had no intention of wallowing in this moment of discouragement and becoming distracted from his mission. Instead, he voiced one of the most profound encouragements in all of Scripture when he declared, “we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead!” (Emphasis mine) Rather than condemn himself for his inability to bear up under pressures of life—a condition which the aforementioned, inaccurate, overused cliché—is known to promote, Paul shifts his overwhelming burden to the One who cannot be intimated even by death itself! Burdens and circumstances too great for us to bear may visit us throughout our lives. It is in those moments that God reminds us of His presence and His willingness to carry that which we were never equipped bear. In our helplessness, we are not alone!