“…For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” (1 Corinthians 1:8, ESV)
Comfort from God is the context in which Paul makes the above statement. He was afflicted. He had been persecuted. He feared for his life, yet God had delivered him. Paul see’s God’s hand in his deliverance and concludes he was delivered in order to be able to provide comfort to others who were in despair.
In America we’ve not quite reached the day where we (Christians) are openly persecuted for our beliefs as Paul was in his day. I have to admit though, that in my life time, it has become increasingly more difficult to be a child of God and not experience derision, yet I have never had to face beatings, being stoned, or lions. Today it seems persecution in America comes in the form of the tongue. Charles Simmons writes, “Bigotry and intolerance, silenced by argument, endeavors to silence by persecution, in old days by fire and sword, in modern days by the tongue.” Make no mistake the only acceptable bigotry and intolerance today seems to be toward Christianity.
If we want to stand for truth; if we desire to live godly in this evil society, we’re promised to suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). With that persecution will also come discouragement and despair. We’ll need the comfort that comes from God. This comfort can be found in the word of God.
“…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
“For the love of Christ compels us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14)
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
“Now, God be praised, that to believing souls gives light in darkness, comfort in despair.” (William Shakespeare)
Whether through external circumstances, as in Paul’s case or through internal influences, I pray we all reach the point in life where we despair to the point we turn to God for comfort.