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The apostle Paul had an unwavering faith in Jesus Christ, an unquenchable passion to share his Lord with, and spend himself on behalf of others. Yet there was a time for me that it was not Paul’s words of strength and boldness, rather a few sad words of despair that etched an eternal message of hope upon my heart  . . . we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves. (2 Cor 1:8-9a) His admission of being overwhelmed by life was for me, freeing and validating. Words given by a God who knew we’d need to hear from a fellow traveler winding his way through the struggles of this life.

Those words did make all the difference . . . .

There were more though. Look with me at the second epistle to Timothy, most likely written from Rome during his second imprisonment, where Paul declares his willingness to be poured out unto His Lord. States his belief that he has fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith. Paul knows that not even the prospect of immanent death can alter his belief in the glorious eternal future awaiting him.

Strong words from a strong apostle.

But if we read on, the following verses reveal Paul as also being very human.
A man with needs.

Needs mentioned perhaps because Paul sensed the severity of trials lying ahead and doubted his ability to stand strong. Or perhaps because Paul simply wanted his friends around him in his last days. Either way, Paul’s willingness to provide an open window into his soul once again made all the difference . . . .

Sometimes our road ahead seems impossible, our pain consuming, our burdens heavy. Feelings of inadequacy rear their ugly head. Strength is sapped, faith is weakened. Yet those times are precisely the times where God can provide most miraculously by God’s Spirit attending to us, or through God’s Spirit in another.

Paul knew that his road was almost at an end, and maybe Paul sensed those next turns would be tough. Paul was a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ. Paul’s faith and commitment ran deep. But Paul was human.

In 2 Timothy 4:9-18, we read how Paul pleads for Timothy to make every effort to come to me soon. Paul voices some of the hurts caused him by others: Demas . . . has deserted me . . . Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.

Paul pauses to be grateful that Luke is with me. It is so important to look for at least one thing in the mess around us for which to offer thanks. A change of focus can make all the difference.

Paul continues, asking Timothy to bring Mark with you . . . bring the cloak I left at Troas . . . and the books . . . . There apparently were people and things Paul felt would make a difference in the approaching winter that promised only to add to his misery.

Paul then reverts to his laundry list of complaints as he tells Timothy that Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. After which Paul perhaps shares his deepest disappointment  . . . at my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me . . . .

No man stood with him at his trial.

Friends, there are days it may feel as if you too have been abandoned or deserted. Harmed by others. Do you give up? Or are you able to feel heartbeat of our Lord with you?

I pray you will find strength to continue the journey before you as Paul must have when he penned the following, notwithstanding (the many trials, disappointments and struggles), the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished . . . .

God stands with us and God speaks to others.

A thought echoed in Psalm 40:1-3 when the Psalmist wrote, God heard my cry . . . brought me up out of the pit . . . set my feet upon a rock . . . made my footsteps firm . . . put a new song in my mouth of praise to God . . . {so that} many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.

God hears our cry. God helps us to stand. And God can use our misery. Not instigate, but use nonetheless.

For God’s Word to us is true, God’s promises sure, God’s faithfulness unchanging . . . and that makes all the difference.

As we grasp for God’s hand in our struggles, God will provide for our darkest hours. God will bring us out. And on that day, because of the Lord we hold onto, even as Paul did, God will provide us with a platform by which, so that, others may hear and see and come to know the God who is within us.

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