23Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? 30If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. - 2 Cor 11:23-30
To the suffering Christian, the life of Paul in these verses is an unbelievable encouragement, and comfort to us, because we are not alone. If we believe that suffering is not suppose to be what a Christian walk entails, we can only ask questions such as these: What, did Paul not pray enough for travel mercies? Did Paul forget to pray for God’s protection for his missions work? Did Paul not calculate his trips based on safe weather forecasts? Was Paul oblivious to political correctness of his time? Did Paul not address his anxiety issues of his heart and soul that he could not get restful sleep? Did he forget to work to provide for even his own needs of food and shelter?
Yet, to the suffering Christian, who is committed to the Lord, we ask different questions: How is Paul doing it? What is Paul’s secret of enduring? How is Paul praying? What does Paul know and hold on to that is greater than his suffering? How is Paul victorious over all these trials? How is Paul rejoicing? How is Paul glorying in tribulations? How is Paul boasting in these experiences, and his weakness?! We see here that God is not only a God who rescues, but also a sovereign God who will permit tremendous testing, trials, and temptations for his children - and still emerges as the All Sufficient Savior. I think as a church, we are missing something. In light of our beliefs that we are Christians, we are deceived if we think that following God at bargain price and convenience is something to boast about. No, it seems like only in our suffering, trials, and tribulations can we have a chance to emerge boasting in the Lord.