2 Corinthians 1:8 (NASB)
For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;
Have you ever watched an Olympic weight lifting competition? If you have, then we probably agree they all are equipped for the competition. In fact, when they are interviewed, without exception, they will testify to the rigid and almost overwhelming preparation time and effort it takes to get to this enormous event. When the event is over only three of these will stand center stage on a world- wide stage to have a medal placed around their necks. In short, they were standing and receiving the applause of their country because they were able to meet the challenge of lifting the weights that were placed before them. But what about the others? The agony of defeat is written on their faces. All of their preparation for this event, and by the way some spend years preparing, did not result in victory. I am not sure, but having experienced times of defeat myself, they probably thought themselves to be failures. All because they could not lift the weight placed in front of them.
As I write this, I am sitting in a hospital room with my mother-in-law. She is in the latter stages of her life. She will be 89 years old next week and she has a weight she cannot lift. Her “affliction” that has burdened her excessively, beyond her strength, is Parkinson’s disease. Not only can she not lift this weight i.e. burden, neither can the doctors performing at their very best. Those of us who love her are in the same predicament, while we sympathize and encourage, we cannot lift that weight from her. Add to that, the numerous prescriptions she takes can only relieve some of the pain, and those last only for a brief amount of time. There are just some weights that cannot be lifted by us no matter what capacity or roll we fill. So how do we handle the dilemma of being burdened beyond our strength? And by the way these “afflictions” that Paul refers to come in all forms and from various sources. If you have the time I would encourage you to read 2 Corinthians 11: 16-33. It is in his personal testimony. In those written words, we can get some sense of his “afflictions”. Many of those things happened to him as a result of being rejected, abused, and even misunderstood. Is that not where most of us receive our weights. Rejection from a spouse, child or even a parent can hurt so deep, the wounds never heal, only scab over.
How do we handle these? Therein lies the problem. These kinds of hurts are the kind we can’t lift. They are ever before us, and are entrenched in our memory banks. Just let the right button be pushed, and here come the weights again. Some keep on training, trying to get stronger so they can lift these things, and maybe take some doctors prescription so they can either feel better about themselves, or have some relief from their pain. The problem with those solutions is they are only temporary. These same hurts will resurface given the right circumstances. Is there a permanent solution? I will let you decide as you read what Paul wrote about his afflictions. They were so difficult he “despaired even of life”.
Paul’s perspective is quite difficult for some to accept. He says first of all, this is “BEYOND OUR STRENGTH”. Wow! How many times are we willing to accept the fact, there ARE some weights we cannot lift? Just as it is hard for a professional weight lifter to face the fact that even with all of his training, determination, and technique, there are some weights he or she just cannot lift. Are you willing to make this first confession: “I am out of my own resources to handle these afflictions? They are beyond my strength!” If you’ve come to that summary of your circumstances, then and only then can you move on to the next part of his testimony. He is saying, “that we despaired even of life”. Can you sense his emotions? It seems as though he is saying, “this is as low as it has gotten for me. I am at the end of myself. I have no resources to lift the weight of this affliction.” And then his mood changes, he realizes something. “Hey, here’s the reason this burden is coming my way. I use the word “realize”, but I believe there is another word more suited for this moment in time. It is the word “revelation”, or some might say “illumination”. Either way, he is telling us what happened at that moment, is not just an ordinary thought like some normal piece of information for him. This revelation is so real. He can now believe something about his affliction that will make a difference in him as he perseveres through this trial.
Paul says, “Indeed we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead”. In essence he is saying, we have this weight we cannot lift ourselves, and it is not by accident. God has allowed it, so we will not trust in ourselves to lift the things we cannot lift, but to TRUST in God to lift them for us. And not only is He sufficient for this affliction, He is sufficient for all future afflictions as well!! Is he saying that we will never be faced with afflictions? No, but he is saying there is no shame in not being able to lift them yourselves. In truth, God allows these weights we cannot lift in order to bring us to the place where we will trust Him instead of ourselves with “weightlifting”. Remember what Peter wrote to us as believers, “He has given us everything we need for life and godliness”. For “weightlifting”. His gift to us is the very Life of Jesus living inside of us. My friends, He can lift any weight you trust Him with. He lives inside of each believer on the face of the earth.
I ask again, have you been there? Are you there now? How is your “weightlifting” going? Are you ready to come to grips with the fact, that everything you’ve been trained and equipped to do to handle these weights on your own, is not working out for you? Well, then give us a call at Crossway Ministries. Go on our website graceheals.org for the contact information. You are not alone. Many have come our way, and by God’s grace we have been able to share His truth about “weightlifting” that has set them free. It only takes a little time. Do you want to be free from the “afflictions that have burdened you excessively BEYOND YOUR STRENGTH” to handle? Remember graceheals.org. Contact us today.