Where’s the comfort for rocky Balboa?

If your first week this semester has been anything like mine, I’m sorry.

First, I didn’t drink enough water when I got back on campus. Rookie mistake. My water neglect has left me with headaches out the wazoo. 

Second, my stomach’s been off. With a mix of new Rot food and mild anxieties swimming throughout my adjusting body, my stomach’s been begging me for normalcy again. Sorry, stomach. 

Third, the stresses of classes and work starting back up have reminded me that the college life is not the same thing as the summer life, and getting back into those early mornings and late nights is always a rough transition. On top of that, I’m settling into this new position here at the Champion, which has its own new responsibilities and stresses. I’m already exhausted, mentally and physically. 

Then, something really odd happened: I woke up Friday morning with my eyelid swollen half-shut. Sure, it had been a little itchy for a couple days before, but on Friday it was a sad red balloon. (Not a fun balloon. A sad, drooping balloon, like the birthday balloons that used to get stuck to the ceiling of the Rot for days.) I had to skip my class — and I hate skipping classes — to go to the Student Health Center, all to be told that medicine probably won’t help it and that I’d have to wait it out for a while. 

With all its oddity and discomfort, this week has just been the crème de la crème of cruddy weeks. 

But enough about my week. Let’s look at one of Paul’s cruddy weeks. Or, rather, one of Paul’s cruddy years. All throughout 2 Corinthians, Paul tells the church in Corinth about his awful time traveling to Asia. He emphasizes his “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings” (6:4-5) and every other miserable thing. In fact, for a book that begins with “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (1:3), it strikes me that so much of this epistle is dedicated to Paul’s crappy times. 

And yet here he is, writing about comfort. Comfort infuses itself into every part of this epistle.  

Paul writes, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death” (1:9). The sentence of death? Paul and his companions were at their wit’s end, ready to embrace death. I can’t even imagine what that feels like. All that you’ve worked so hard on to accomplish for the gospel, all for this dude Jesus who’s not even making your life comfortable, let alone livable. Then Paul continues: “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (1:9).

Too often, we synonymize “comfort” with “comfortable.” In other words, we think that there is no comfort for us, simply because we are having bad weeks with a physical or emotional pain. But Paul begs to differ. Paul is trying to tell the Corinthians, “Guys, there’s a different type of comfort I’m talking about.” And the crux of this comfort features a bleeding man hanging upon a torturous cross. 

So here I am looking like Rocky Balboa (post-fight), a warm compress laying on my eye, chugging water like a camel after months of desert-wandering, thanking Jesus for this simple fact: Even throughout the rough times, the times when I’m sad or stressed or upset — basically, when my flesh is weak — Christ’s love, grace and healing abound in more ways than just my physical and mental health. He will never stop strengthening my inward self, and that, frankly, is the most important reminder when my flesh gets angsty about not feeling its best.  

“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” (1:10). 

Gilmer is the opinion editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on X

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