Part 16 – To suffer (continued)
According to Peter, suffering is a “blessing,” because “the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us,” 1 Peter 4:14. And Paul says we can “rejoice in our sufferings,” Romans 5:3 – “rejoice” in Greek meaning brag and boast too. Suffering is that great.
Fortunately, Paul goes on to say why it’s so great: it’s because “we know that suffering produces perseverance.” Paul uses the Greek word thlipsis for suffering, which means a crushing weight – something Paul himself experienced in 2 Corinthians 1:8, when he was “under such pressure it was beyond his ability to endure,” to the point he “despaired even of life.” It was like having a massive weight on his chest, and he couldn’t breathe.
And that’s a blessing? It was to Paul, because being squeezed to the point he could pop got the message through to him “not to rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” When the suffering is that bad, and you’re in a downward spiral you can’t pull out of, he learnt that God is more than ready to take over the controls and stop the death spin. And being rescued by God from these “deadly death spins” happened so often to Paul he could say with confidence that in the future “God will deliver us” too, verse 10.
It was that knowledge, gained through personal experience time and time again, that produced in Paul a remarkable “perseverance.” The Greek word he used was hypomeneo, which combines hypo meaning “under” and meneo meaning “to abide.” It’s the ability to abide under a heavy weight and take it, rather than trying to get rid of it – Paul again being a great example, because faced with enormous pressure he didn’t try to get out from under it. And what that did for him was create an amazing fearless fortitude in him.
Like the time in Lystra he was pummelled with rocks so badly he was dragged out of the city and left for dead. But “he got up and went back into the city,” and carried on (Acts 14:19-20). He’d learnt that with the Spirit of glory resting on him he could “abide under” anything the world threw at him. It only made him stronger, just like carrying a weight does. No wonder he considered it a blessing…(more on this tomorrow)