Following the Lord Jesus is not without cost and sacrifice. For some dear ones, ill-health, emotional illness or personal struggles may be their lot throughout their pilgrimage on earth even though they may sincerely cry out in prayer to God for release.

When we are in such a plight in our Christian walk and others seek to encourage us, we may feel that they do not quite understand us and perhaps they cannot identify with us as they have not gone through similar difficulties.

The famous Christian evangelist and preacher Charles Spurgeon revealed the following in a sermon: “I am the subject of depression of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to”. It seems that discouragement is no respecter of persons whatever the spiritual status. Can it be possible for believers in such situations not to lose heart and not to feel like giving up?

In 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul penned the following: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

“…but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distress, in beatings, in imprisonment, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger….”

2 Corinthians 6: 4-5

In 2 Corinthians 1: 8, Paul revealed that he himself was “burdened excessively beyond his strength and despaired even of life”.

The apostle Paul not only had to endure severe physical hardship; he also had to encounter false workers, spiritual pressure from the evil one as well as anguish and pain arising from false accusations from those whom he loved and cared for greatly. In addition, Paul was concerned for his co-workers, the various churches of God and the preservation of the purity of the gospel.

Not many of us can claim to have gone through even a fraction of what Paul went through. But perhaps what is most astounding is that in the midst of undergoing all these pain, afflictions and struggles, including despairing of life itself, Paul wrote:

“Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart…”  

2 Corinthians 4: 1

“Therefore, we do not lose heart, for though the outer man is decaying, our inner man is being renewed day by day.”

2 Corinthians 4: 16

Paul shared that there would be distresses, struggles, afflictions and even perplexity in faithful Christian service. However, what came through very distinctly at the same time is that even in the midst of all these difficulties, the believers need not lose heart but they can be of good courage. Yes, it is definitely possible not to be discouraged despite perplexing and difficult circumstances in Christian living and ministry!

The use of the word ‘Therefore’ in 2 Corinthians 4: 1 and 2 Corinthians 4: 16 help us to realise the reasons why we need not lose heart and they were written in the preceding verses. Paul used two words to crystallize the reasons why we do not lose heart. The words are ‘hope’ and ‘glory’. We shall examine them more closely in the next chapter.

Sufferings, pain and difficulties can cause us to be bitter, discouraged and angry against God. They can lead us to wallow in self-pity and to sink into passivity, indifference, apathy and unbelief. This is exactly what the evil one desires for God’s people.

God’s message to us is that we need not lose heart; we can be bold and courageous even in the midst of very trying circumstances. It is not as if the pain is not real; the tears shed are genuine tears and the hardship and distresses are not imaginary. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14: 22(b))

Despite the pain, the tears, the agony and even the shedding of blood, we can be of good courage because of the ‘hope’ and ‘glory’ we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.