One of the basic principles of Christian counseling is the importance of taking our eyes off of ourselves in times of suffering–suffering that oftentimes brings people down. Right now in the midst of this virus crisis a lot of people are suffering. Some are suffering because they themselves are sick with the virus. Some are suffering because someone they love has died from it. Some are suffering because they have lost their job. Some are “suffering” because they don’t like the restrictions that have been placed upon themselves. As followers of Christ, we need to remind ourselves that no matter why we are suffering, one of the best things we can do is to take our eyes off of ourselves and think instead on how we are supposed to be loving and serving others.
This is the message that Paul gives us in 2 Corinthians chapter 1: “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are 1ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. 6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; 7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. 8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He bon whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many” (2 Cor. 1:3-11).
Those who know their Bible know how badly Paul suffered for the cause of the gospel (cf. 2 Cor. 11:22-33). In this immediate context, we are reminded about how badly Paul had been treated by the Corinthians. Despite the suffering and all the wrongs that had been done against him, he chose to follow the way of Christ and take his eyes off of himself so that he could love and serve others. As Paul explains it here in chapter 1, our calling is to learn from the grace and mercy of God so that “we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (v. 4). In other words, a Christ-centered way of looking at life suffering is that we not let it leave us in a state of despair. Rather, we need to think God’s thoughts and turn our affliction around so that we go out and love and serve others the way we are supposed to. What this means, though, is “dying to self” on a daily basis, the kind of dying to self like we see in the examples of Paul and supremely in the example of Jesus Himself (cf. Phil. 2:5-11).
May we take this message and apply it to ourselves so that no matter what life has brought upon us, we will be the kind of person who rises above it all so that we might be more like Paul who wrote these words: “For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you” (2 Cor. 4:11-12). May this be a godly encouragement for us all to raise our eyes above ourselves and our circumstances to be the people God has called us to be in the midst of these challenging times.
Love, Pastor Tim