There he goes again!
St. Paul can’t seem to let go of the idea that we should be joyful in our sufferings and tribulations.
Of course, I’m glad he can’t let go of it because our sufferings are the Cross of Jesus Himself. I am exceedingly joyful that Jesus Himself didn’t let go of the Cross, exceedingly joyful that Paul clings to the same Cross, and I myself am working on joy in tribulations.
In verse 4, St. Paul says: “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulations.” One day I noticed that the wise men in Luke “rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” when they saw the Star of Bethlehem. Now every time I see the words “exceedingly joyful” or words like it, I am reminded that this is to be our response to Jesus, wherever and however we meet Him.
Paul can say such outrageous things as that he is exceedingly joyful in tribulation and takes pleasure in his infirmities because he had learned the secret that Jesus is present with us in our tribulation and suffering. And where Jesus is, there is joy.
It seems odd to us, that suffering and tribulation could be a reason to rejoice, but once we acknowledge that Jesus, who suffered for us on the Cross, is still with us in our sufferings, then it makes perfect sense. He has not suffered in the past, only to abandon us in the present. Jesus is with His people in suffering, if we suffer with Him, and therefore because Jesus is with us, we rejoice!
Paul has in mind in this passage a particular kind of suffering, which I will get to in a minute. The truth is that in any and all of our suffering, if we receive it with faith and a godly heart, then Jesus is with us in that suffering and redeeming it. If we suffer with Christ, He will bear that suffering. But if we attempt to bear it without Him, well, we all know the results of that.
Again, it might smell strange, but sorrow and suffering are often the smell of Jesus coming to you. He who suffered for us and still suffers with us often comes incarnated in our suffering. In fact, whenever you suffer, practice seeking Jesus in that suffering, and you too will smell Him in it.
But the kind of sorrow Paul is talking about in particular is the godly sorrow that comes from confessing our sins. Paul, as the overseer or bishop of the Corinthian church (he is more than a local pastor who lives in Corinth full time), made the Corinthian church sorrowful. Normally, this isn’t a good thing to do – unless the reason sorrow is caused is that a sin has been exposed, the sinner exhorted to repent, and then the sinner made sorry for his sins.
Though not pleasant at the time, godly sorrow produces much spiritual fruit. According to Paul, it brings the fruits of repentance that leads to salvation, diligence, a clearing of oneself, indignation, fear, vehement desire, zeal, and vindication. Not a bad list of fruits to receive all from an act that many avoid like the plague!
Furthermore, this godly sorrow brings joy and comfort to both Paul and Titus. Sometimes we think that repentance is only for our own good, but since we are all connected and since sin is the ultimate social disease, repentance comforts, encourages, and brings exceeding joy to other Christians as well.
Through this entire process of repentance, which appeared in Luke 17 as the three-fold process of correction, repentance, and forgiveness, Jesus come to us and is with us. And wherever Jesus is, there is joy.
Prayer: Father, I thank You that You correct Your children and that the result of being restored to Your loving presence is always joy. Help me to acknowledge my sins before You today, to repent of them with zeal and determination, and finally to receive the joy that comes from being in Your presence through Your Son.
Point for Meditation:
Reflect on your practice of confession and repentance. Is it done as frequently and completely as it should be? If not, in what ways can you arrange your life so that your godly sorrow may yield more fruit in your life?
Resolution: I resolve today to seek Jesus in sorrow, especially the sorrow of repentance.
© 2011 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day