Dealing with adversity seems to be the overriding theme for this lesson. Paul suffered more in life than any other apostle for whom we have record. He was stoned multiple times, received whippings that should have killed him four times, was almost drowned in the sea, was imprisoned, and the list goes on. His point in 2 Corinthians is that when we approach our hardships in this life with the right attitude all of our sufferings get swallowed up in what we receive from Christ. The lesson addresses this thought by dealing with four topics Paul covers in this book.
Reading Assignment: 2 Corinthians
Paul starts off with an important principle. This is 2 Corinthians 1:3 – 5. God really is the comfort of all.
3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
Christ experienced all of our sufferings during his mortal ministry and in His passion in Gethsemane and on the cross. There isn’t anything we can experience that He hasn’t already experienced in full measure and more. Because of this He is able to comfort us in our times of distress and sorrow, and during our physical and mental trials. It is the comfort we receive from Him that enables us to give aid and comfort to others who are suffering.
This has an interesting effect. When we accept the peace of God and are comforted by His Spirit our hearts and minds are filled with joy. We experience peace of conscience and serenity in our soul. This allows us to look outside of ourselves and past our own trials to help others with their sufferings. So many times the Lord has told His prophets during their difficult times to look up and rejoice for He had already conquered the enemy and they had every reason to look forward to the blessings of eternity.
The key to overcoming present trials is to learn to look at our lives from an eternal perspective. When we look at Christ’s sacrifices for us we can see that He has already won the crown. All we have to do is hold on and have hope in Christ and His crown will be ours as well.
An important lesson Paul tries to teach the Corinthian Saints is that sometimes the Lord deliberately gives us weaknesses, and doesn’t take them away. By learning to lean on the Lord because of our weaknesses, we enable the Lord to teach us how to become strong, despite the weakness. Paul begged the Lord multiple times to take away what he called his “thorn in the flesh.” When he realized the Lord had no intention of removing this trial in his life, he decided that he would embrace his own weakness by relying on the Lord’s strength to compensate for it. In this way he overcame his own personal weakness and became strong in Christ. This is why Paul says he glories in his weakness.
The following quote is right out of the manual. It illustrates beautifully why we need to forgive one another
President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“We see the need for [forgiveness] in the homes of the people, where tiny molehills of misunderstanding are fanned into mountains of argument. We see it among neighbors, where insignificant differences lead to undying bitterness. We see it in business associates who quarrel and refuse to compromise and forgive when, in most instances, if there were a willingness to sit down together and speak quietly one to another, the matter could be resolved to the blessing of all. Rather, they spend their days nurturing grudges and planning retribution. . . .
“If there be any who nurture in their hearts the poisonous brew of enmity toward another, I plead with you to ask the Lord for strength to forgive. This expression of desire will be of the very substance of your repentance. It may not be easy, and it may not come quickly. But if you will seek it with sincerity and cultivate it, it will come. . . .
“ . . . There is no peace in reflecting on the pain of old wounds. There is peace only in repentance and forgiveness. This is the sweet peace of the Christ, who said, ‘blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’ (Matt. 5:9.)” (“Of You It Is Required to Forgive,” Ensign, June 1991, 2, 5).
The second paragraph is the key to forgiveness. Notice that he says that we need to pray for the “strength to forgive.” Forgiveness takes strength of character, and often comes as a gift from God, especially when we are weak and can’t seem to get past the offense to see our way clearly to forgive. The second sentence is the kicker. “This expression of desire [to forgive] will be of the very substance of your repentance.” What? My repentance? I’m the one who got offended. I’m the one who is hurting because of the actions of someone else. My repentance?
Yes, my repentance. If I am the one harboring the grudge, nursing the anger and resentment, and refusing to let it be in the hands of God to deal with then I am the one who needs to repent. I can’t repent for the other person, I can only be concerned with myself. At this point I need to humble myself and go before the Lord and ask for His forgiveness for the evil I am allowing to live and grow within me. Only when I go to Him and get His help in rooting it out of my soul will I find peace, and forgiveness for the evil I allowed to live within me while I nursed my anger.
Feeling godly sorrow for our sins
In 2 Corinthians 7:8 – 9 Paul says that he was happy that in his last letter to them he made them sorry. He goes on to teach them the important principle that there is a difference between being sorry for being caught in your sins, and being sorrowful because of your sins. The first one is only regret that you didn’t get away with your misdeeds. The second one demonstrates that you are sorry that you did the misdeeds and shows a desire to be better and change.
I know this is the New Testament, but my favorite scripture about this is in the Book of Mormon. In Mormon 2:13 – 14 Mormon began to rejoice when he saw the people acting sorrowful for how miserable they were. This was right before they were destroyed by the Lamanites. This is what he says:
13 But behold this my joy was vain, for their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin.
14 And they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives.
That is so typical of so many of us. We have the offer of forgiveness and peace, but we are so in love with our sins that we would rather curse God and wish to die than give them up and be happy. Only godly sorrow leads to repentance. Any other type of sorrow is just feeling sorry for ourselves.
Becoming reconciled to God
The verses for this topic are found in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. I’m sorry, but the way Paul talks sometimes drives me crazy. I’m sure he was perfectly understandable to the people of his day, but to me he sounds like he is speaking in riddles. (Okay, I’m done venting.)
To be reconciled to God is to be brought back into a state of harmony with God and His laws. In other words, we repent. By repenting we take advantage of Christ’s atonement and are forgiven of the laws we violated and are at peace with our Father in Heaven and Christ. Peace comes at a cost, and that cost is repentance.
Dealing with adversity is going to be part and parcel of living in mortality. We cannot escape it. But how we deal with adversity will make or break our happiness in this life and in the world to come. When we learn that only through turning to Christ and seeking the help of His atoning sacrifice will we ever develop the strength of character we need to find peace and happiness in this life. That was an awkward sentence let’s try that again. There is only one way to obtain happiness and joy in this life. To do so we must seek out Christ’s atoning sacrifice and let Him shoulder our burdens.
Christ does put a yoke or burdens on us. He does require that we make sacrifices and submit our will to His. But it is precisely because we are willing to shoulder the burdens He requires of us that we are able to gain the strength we need to handle life’s adversities and still find joy. It is our choice, deal with life on our own terms, without any help, or face life on the Lord’s terms and receive strength, peace and happiness, with a promise of blessings in the eternities. This is what Paul was trying to teach the Saints in Corinth.