In 2 Corinthians Paul writes of his experiences of afflictions and the comfort God gives him to cope with them. Paul’s comfort is also founded on the comfort believers give to each other. “The father of mercies”, writes Paul, “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by God” (1:3,4).

Like Jeremiah, Paul had frightening experiences. “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely, not on ourselves but on God …” (verses 8,9). These experiences must have challenged Paul’s faith, but such experiences build faith. Paul found that enduring them lead him to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:22). Paul went on to express his convictions of God’s overriding care, “He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (verse 10).

Then Paul makes a point we must take careful note of. “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of the many” (verse 11). May it be that we can pray with a clear conscience like Paul, for in the next verse we read, “For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God …”

And “by the grace of God” may we all learn to rely “not on ourselves but on God”.