2 Corinthians 4:8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
Paul now connects the theological truths and illustration of clay jars from the previous verses to his suffering in ministry. The “we” here includes Paul, his ministry companions, and all believers who sincerely follow the path of holiness. The first phrase “in every way” is inclusive of all that follows. The words of suffering are all participles, governed by the present active indicative at the beginning, forming periphrastics. This has the effect of making these active and vivid experiences. The list of suffering is given in pairs, with the second phrase after the “but” (alla) answering the problem posed by the first phrase.
Affliction is oppression. It is pressing against the direction a person desires to go. Paul had a clear calling to preach the gospel. He gave his whole life and strength to this purpose. But everywhere he went, he seemed to find opposition, even to the point of physical suffering. Even those he was opposed, he was not crushed. This word means to be in a situation that seems to have no way out of it. It has the sense of being crowded and confined with no escape. Even though Paul was feeling the squeeze from many directions, and even during his imprisonments, he was actually free because he found his purpose and meaning in Jesus Christ. The pressures and stresses of the world seek to squeeze the life out of us, but we do not need to let this happen when we find our purposes in Christ.
Next, Paul felt perplexed, confused, and uncertain of what to do. He faced many decisions and did not have all the answers. We too feel like this. There are many voices calling out for attention in our world today. Many of these voices cause confusion, doubt, and uncertainty. The answers are not always clear. With the rise of social media and the availability of instant news from just about anywhere in the world, we can find ourselves overwhelmed by the constant input. It would be easy to fall into despair. We are at a loss to know what to do. Paul would not let this happen to him because he turned to Christ. Paul’s heart and mind were tuned into the Holy Spirit who was bringing new life and transformation into Paul. We too do not need to let all the voices and confusion around us lead us to despair. If we keep our focus on Christ, and seek God’s kingdom first (see Matthew 6:33), then our minds will be clear and our outlook optimistic.
For older posts, click here.