“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
You don’t see many free-standing cafeteria-style restaurants today. They’ve pretty much gone the way of cassette and VHS tapes. Occasionally you’ll find cafeterias on college campuses or in hospitals. When I was a kid, and our family shopped in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, we often would eat at the famous Britling Cafeteria. What a treat! As you went down the line you might see 15-to-20 salads, a dozen or so vegetables, and 8-to-10 meat items. And then you came to the desserts. Whoo boy! You could find most any kind of delicious dessert. If you’ve ever eaten at a cafeteria you know that you pick and choose what you want, and pay for your food at the end of the line.
Life is not a cafeteria in which you get to choose your troubles and problems. You’re not able to say, “I’ll take some heavy traffic, but let’s hold off today on sickness.” Or “I think I’ll skip that part about surgery.” To be human is to have problems. We might say with Jimmy Stewart: “It’s a wonderful life.” But it’s not always an easy life.
Most days we deal with petty nuisances or irritating situations. But once in a while life can kick us hard—cancer, serious injury, financial reverse, foreclosure, a car wreck, the unexpected death of a loved one, divorce, a heart attack or something bad that happens to one of your children. The Bible verses printed at the beginning of this post make 4 statements that describe the hope held by those who trust God during the truly hard times that life occasionally deals out. You might be dealing with one now.
Pressure will not defeat us.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed” (v.8). The pressures of life might squeeze us, but we never are utterly crushed. We might catch it from every direction, but our problems don’t squeeze the life out of us. We sometimes are hard-pressed on every side, but never hemmed in. Why? God specializes in making a way for those who love Him and trust Him.
Confusion will not discourage us.
“We are perplexed, but not in despair” (v.8). The word perplexed in the verse was used in New Testament times to describe someone who had been ruined in business and his creditors had left him with nothing. This person was at his wits end and couldn’t figure out what to do next.
Here’s the good news. When we are confused, God is not confused. He can provide solutions when your troubles overwhelm you and prevent you from thinking straight.
Opposition will not deter us.
“We are persecuted, but not abandoned” (v.9). The word persecuted brings to mind movie scenes in which the hero knows he’s being followed, but can’t quite see his enemies. They’re out there; he knows they are after him. When will they strike next?
If you set out to do anything good in this world, someone is bound to oppose you, criticize you or attempt to hinder you. But one thing we can always count on is that God will be with us. We might say, He’s always got our back.
Hard hits will not destroy us.
“We are struck down, but not destroyed” (v.9). If you live long enough life will give you a hard punch in the gut. This phrase struck down refers to the sudden emergency, the unexpected incident, the late night phone call, the crisis that comes out of nowhere, the catastrophe that overwhelms us or the trouble that rocks our world. With the strength God gives us we deal these hard hits and they don’t destroy us. That’s hopeful!
Are you facing a difficult situation that makes you feel like giving up? To you it might seem you have been knocked down so many times you don’t think you can get back up. But you can, with God’s help. So turn to Him. Pray to Him about your troubles. Trust Him for the strength to live to fight another day.
Let the experience of the person who wrote Psalm 40 in the Bible provide encouragement for you. He dealt with some bad stuff, but He never stopped trusting the Father and praying to Him.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry, He lifted me out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth. (Psalm 40:1-3).