Yes, Paul was human, too.
It is almost impossible to think or talk about Paul in Bible and not think of the amazing things God accomplished through him. In terms of accomplishments it’s a little like watching a highlight reel of a 5 time XGames gold medalist, 6 time Olympic gold medalist, who also wins Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Prize. And that would just be the highlights.
Read between lines though and it’s clear that Paul had very real challenges, too. In fact he faced the same emotional challenges that people often struggle with. He had inward fear and was downcast (2 Corinthians 7:5-6). He had a physical or emotional “thorn” that caused him to “plead” with God for relief (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Like I shared 2 weeks ago most commentators 1 believe that when Paul talks about his arrival in Corinth (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) being marked with, “weakness, fear and trembling” that it was because of his fear of persecution. This would be completely understandable considering the last few cities he had worked in. Add to that he was traveling without his usual traveling companions.
I haven’t put a post up for almost a year. Why write one now?
Because I read this last week:
“When I brought my fifth baby home from the hospital, I never imagined writing a suicide letter or ending my life by running into oncoming traffic. My husband never considered planning a funeral for me and one of our babies or raising our five children alone. And, thankfully, my family will not be left to wonder why I took my own life—because, instead, I found help for my Postpartum Depression (PPD).” (read the full article here)
If you haven’t suffered through a genuine bought of depression it is difficult to have sympathy with someone in the midst of it. It’s not uncommon for people to give advice like, “stop whining”, “suck it up” or , “just get over it” to people who seemed depressed. Because of this kind of advice and because we have unconsciously created an environment where we assume that mature christians shouldn’t suffer through seasons of fear, anxiety or depression, it is not easy for those who do, to talk honestly about it. The author from the above article writes, “women who suffer with PPD often fear that asking for help could potentially discredit their trust in God and expose what may wrongly be seen as spiritual immaturity.” Despite these challenges she says that one of the keys to making it through these kinds of challenges is to, “Reach out for help.” Notice Paul received comfort in his difficult season of life from Titus coming to him (2 Corinthians 7:5-6).
These realities of Paul’s life shouldn’t be glossed over. Because they remind us of three essential truths in life. One, no one is immune to seasons of physical or emotional hardships. If someone as “mature” as Paul had them, it is no sign of weakness for you suffer through them either. Two, never be afraid to cry out to God for help! Paul did. Not only did Paul cry out to God but he had no problem relying on others or asking help from others (2 Tim 4:11). Three, those challenges don’t have to define us or our actions. Despite these challenges Paul remained faithful! As John Calvin says in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:3,“Paul, therefore, was not devoid of the influence of fear, but that fear he controlled in such a manner as to go forward”. Let that be your prayer in the midst of physical or emotional trials, “Lord, despite my current challenges, let me move forward. Give me the courage and strength to be faithful.”
- “As, however, Paul here connects fear with weakness, and as the term weakness denotes everything that was fitted to render him contemptible, it follows necessarily that this fear must relate to dangers and difficulties.” – John Calvin Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2 http://biblehub.com/commentaries/calvin/1_corinthians/2.htm