We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair…2 CO 4.8
Afflicted in every way…The Bible promises that we who believe in Jesus Christ will suffer in this life. We will all go through “trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). In fact Peter tells us to not “be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Yet somehow when hard times come we’re often shocked. We don’t understand. It feels like something strange happening to us.
In fact the apostle Paul himself went through things that surprised him. He said he and his companions were “perplexed.” Bewildered, puzzled, unable to figure out what was happening? Paul was probably perplexed when friends like Demas deserted him (2 Ti 4.10). Or when the Galatians were about to abandon justification by faith and go back to a works righteousness.
I’m glad Paul used the word “perplexed”
I’m glad Paul used the word “perplexed,” because God takes me through many many things I just don’t understand. Things I never expected. Perfect storms I could never have predicted. Times when I have sought to obey God and it seems to have backfired on me. Don’t get me wrong, God has blessed me incredibly in my lifetime, and I know so many more who have gone through horrific trials I can’t imagine going through. Yet I often find myself “perplexed.”
When we’re perplexed, we think, “How did this happen?” or “Why is this happening?” and we have no answer. Things don’t seem to line up with our expectations. I thought if I did this, God would do this. If I sowed, I’d reap. Well, you will reap, but before the harvest comes you might have to fight off a few crows. Before you see the sunshine, you might have to walk through a dark valley. The perplexing valley.
Yet when we are afflicted God will not allow us to be crushed. And somehow when we are perplexed, God will keep us from despair if we seek him. Are you perplexed? Hold on to God’s promises. Speak to yourself like David in Psalm 43:
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (5)
When perplexed, remind yourself of the harvest to come:
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him. PS 126.5-6
You may be perplexed now, but don’t despair. Your weeping will turn to joy. The seeds of prayer and acts of love will someday grow into sheaves of joy.
I’m glad Paul said he was at times perplexed. For if the apostle Paul was perplexed, we shouldn’t be surprised if we are too. But like Paul, even when we’re perplexed we’re not driven to despair, because we know the one who has all things in the palm of his hands, who loves us, and is causing all things, even perplexing things, to work together for our good.