Paul knew his fair share of suffering during his life. We will hear about a lot of this in 2 Corinthians. Paul also knew that the Corinthian Christians had and were going to face sufferings of various kinds. We all do. It is part of the human condition.
Naturally any time suffering is present we ask that nagging question why. The truth of the matter is that there are many reasons why we suffer, and no one reason can explain all cases of suffering. Sometimes we may have no clue whatsoever for why we suffer.
Paul shares with us what he had determined was the reason for his suffering, at least in the situation he was discussing:
You see, my dear family, we don’t want to keep you in the dark about the suffering we went through in Asia. The load we had to carry was far too heavy for us; it got to the point where we gave up on life itself. Yes: deep inside ourselves we received the death sentence. This was to stop us relying on ourselves, and to make us rely on the God who raises the dead. (1:8-9)
It would appear that at least sometimes God brings or at least uses hard times to humble our pride and cause us to face our own inadequacy. Only then are we ready to really let God take over.
When my sons were quite young — toddlers, I guess — they would sit down determined to fix a toy, unravel some string, or do up a button. I would offer to help but they would have nothing to do with it. Most of the time all that happened from their attempt at independence was that the toy became more broken, the string more tangled, or the button remained unbuttoned. Only when they were thoroughly frustrated would they come to me for help. It could have been much easier, but they had to learn their limits. Sometimes we are no different from my sons: independent to a fault, only to end with frustration. Sometimes suffering is intended to show us we can’t do everything ourselves.
Paul also knows that no matter how much suffering may come our way there is as much or more comfort available in God as well.
Just as we have an overflowing share of the Messiah’s suffering, you see, so we have an overflowing share in comfort through the Messiah. (1:5)
God is willing to let us fall until we realize we can’t do life on our own. But this same God who wants us to learn a lesson is also right there to bandage our wounds, help us get up, and carry us along. God is as much a comforter as a teacher and master.