Bible Society of South Africa

Is there any meaning in difficult times? – 2 February 2021

By Benescke Janse van Rensburg

Bible text(s)

24Five times I was given the 39 lashes by the Jews; 25three times I was whipped by the Romans; and once I was stoned. I have been in three shipwrecks, and once I spent 24 hours in the water.

2 Corinthians 11:24-25GNBOpen in Bible reader

9But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ's power over me.

2 Corinthians 12:9GNBOpen in Bible reader

The medical doctor, Victor Frankl, survived four concentration camps in the 1940s. He was the only one of his family members who did. “How did you do it?” a journalist asked after his release. Victor’s answer was simple: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor explains how people in the concentration camps went through three mental phases: shock in the first few days after their arrival, apathy and “emotional death” and then the disillusionment with life after release. However, there was one antidote to these emotions (which carried him and some of the other prisoners through the darkest times): To find purpose in life – for example, to have something or someone outside the camp that drives you to want to stay alive. People who lost that, usually did not make it.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all in different ways. Some were laid off at work, others had to close the doors of a business and still others had to say goodbye to a loved one next to an open grave. Maybe your crisis today has nothing to do with Covid-19, but your heart is aching due to your marriage falling apart, someone cheated you out of a large sum of money or because someone you trusted stabbed you in the back. All of these crises can fill us with shock, disillusionment, apathy and even “emotional death”.

Paul was once there. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-25 he wrote: “Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.” Apart from this, there were dangers of rivers, robbers and false brothers. There were nights without sleep, hunger and thirst and sometimes no shelter from the cold. How did Paul remain positive in the midst of all these challenges? He had purpose in life. His goal was to make as many people disciples of Jesus. This is also our purpose on earth.

As believers, we are not immune from difficult seasons in our lives. We live in a broken world. Yet, God calls us to bear fruit in every season of our lives. We do this by looking for opportunities in the midst of our own hurt, to be good to others. Doing this, we not only bring God’s light to their lives, but we too experience a sense of purpose in our own lives.

Instead of focusing on everything that is wrong around us, let us ask God to reveal to us all the opportunities to be good to others. And let us remember God’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God bless.

Prayer: Father God, thank You that we can come to You in our weakness because we know that only You can strengthen us. Please help me to find purpose in every season of my life. I ask this in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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