Scripture: 2 Corinthians 7:5-7
We have all been depressed at one point or another in our lives. Sometimes the reason or reasons are pretty obvious: an experience of grief or loss, stressful work environment, financial strain, illness, lack of rest, tension in relationship, lack of sunshine in winter, loneliness, or some other reasons that we can easily tell. Other times the reason might be indirect; we cannot seem to explain why, but we just feel the stress.
In the Bible, even a spiritual giant like Apostle Paul felt downcast at times. Although Paul did not talk much about himself except perhaps his ministry, his ministry was a big part of him, so through his ministry we also have a glimpse of his emotional world.
We have seen him feeling great pressure far beyond his ability to endure (2 Cor 1:8; see also Comforted and Comforting). Recalling a separate but related situation in Macedonia, Paul said, “This body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn — conflicts on the outside, fears within” (Today’s New International Version, 2 Cor 7:5). While he did not say explicitly that he was depressed, he went on and described God as “God who comforts the downcast.” It is pretty obvious that he was under some stress.
But he immediately explained how God who comforts the downcast comforted him.
We can learn from Paul how to find comfort in God:
Trust God in Moments of Stress
Paul must have experienced God’s comforts so many times that he calls God the “God who comforts the downcast.” The Psalmist also says, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psa 42:5). These are good reminders for us to keep our trust and hope in God even when we are feeling down.
Be Perceptive in Recognizing Comfort from God
We want our difficulties removed, problem solved, and stress removed, but God might choose to comfort us in other ways, and we ought to be open-minded and open-hearted in recognizing God’s comfort.
Paul was experiencing some difficulties in Macedonia, both physical and emotional, outside and inside as he said. God did not comfort him by removing all the difficulties. Instead, God sent Titus and good news that Titus brought along as a means of comforting Paul, and Paul recognized it! Imagine how awful it would be if God sent His comfort to us, but we simply missed it.
May years ago I was at a low point in serving God. Things did not work well. Persistent emphasis in the Bible did not seem to influence many people, and misunderstanding abounded among coworkers. I remember one Sunday I came home after giving a sermon, feeling very frustrated, disappointed and stressed. It was that kind of stress when you felt that nothing was worth doing anymore, nothing you said would affect anything or influence anyone, and nothing would work.
But God sent me a comfort. That week I received a package from someone living in another state. It was from a younger Christian brother who attended the same Church as I did when he was studying in a university nearby. He moved away after his graduation and served in music ministry in another Church. The package he sent was a recording of a piece of Christian music which he wrote. That would have brought me enough joy, but more to that, he also included a note. I can’t remember the exact wording of the note, but he thanked me for things that I said to him during his years in Michigan. He said that many sayings of mine still came up to him through the years, and he found them to be truthful and useful.
As I was reading the note, I was filled with joy and said to myself, “God sent Titus at the right time!” And I was comforted and strengthened even though the difficulties in ministry had not changed directly.
So if you happen to be feeling down, look around, listen outwardly and inwardly. Perhaps God has already sent his comfort. You just have to recognize it and experience comfort!
Care for Others instead of Focusing on Ourselves
Paul was comforted by the good news that Titus brought about the Church of Corinth (v. 7. Space does not allow me to go into details. They are described in vv. 8-16, but you have to know some background of the Church in Corinth in order to understand it). Here we just want to note that it was good news about the Church of Corinth, but Paul got comforted. If we were told of some good news of the Church in Corinth, or the rapid growth of the Church in China, or even a good thing happening in a Church in our neighboring city, most of us would probably think, “What does that have to do with me? I don’t really care.”
In a way it is understandable. We are not Apostle Paul, so we do not care about so many Churches or people, but with our attitude, it is also true that a lot of good news is not really good news to us, and we do not receive joy or comfort with the good news on others.
The more we care for others, the more joy and comfort we will receive. If we sincerely care for many people, we will probably receive good news every day!
So we find that Paul’s life is so rich that even his stressful situations become blessings and lessons to others. May we all learn from him in trusting God, being perceptive in recognizing God’s comfort, and sincerely caring for others around us.
If you happen to be in a stressful situation, may our good Lord, who comforts the downcast, comfort you even at this moment.
David Soemarko received his M.A.T.S. degree (Master of Arts in Theological Studies) from Moody Theological Seminary – Michigan. He had served as a teaching elder for nearly 15 years. He has also taught the Bible in different levels (from Sunday school classes to theological classes) for about 30 years. David is also a computer/electrical engineer (with a M.S. degree from University of Michigan). He enjoys a wide range of hobbies including computer applications, drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, music, piano, gardening, and science of cooking and baking.
David blogs at on bible and bible applications.