Can’t Take It Anymore?


SadFace02Have you ever felt so stressed out that you wanted to say (or scream) “I can’t take it anymore”? Maybe we all have. It might be hard to believe, but even Apostle Paul had said the same thing.

Recalling some troubles that he and his coworkers had experienced in the province of Asia Minor, Paul said, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure.” (2Cor 1:8 TNIV) In today’s language, the phrase “far beyond our ability to endure” is, in a sense, “we could not take it!”

But how did they take it eventually? What can we learn from their experience?

Check out this article that I guess blog at DEFYING SHADOWS site:
Comforted and Comforting (click to view article)

While you are there, check out some other articles by the site owner or other guest bloggers as well. I believe some of them are also quite useful / applicable to us.

PS: I will guest blog on that site for 4 articles, once every week, on this theme.

 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:1-11 TNIV)


Can’t Take It Anymore? — 6 Comments

  1. David,
    Since your title “Comforted and Comforting” is drawn from this passage, it would be beneficial to me or others (who does not know the Greek in that Bible time) if you could further explore the word “comfort” in Greek, besides the context here in 2 Corinthian 1.
    The reason I asked is that in today languages at least English, the word “comfort” seems quite soft and also it seems not to convey a strong and rock solid support or confidence or strength or rescue from God. Maybe I am wrong about the word from today’s usage, but from the context, given Paul used it several times in this passage, he meant a different or much stronger meaning than I understood.

    • Hi Anna, in this case the word for “to comfort” (parakaleo, παρακαλέω) has a very wide range of meaning, so we cannot determine the tone or strength by the word alone. When Paul urged believers to offer their bodies a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1), he is also using the same word. The word for the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, translated as advocate, helper, or comforter) and Christ as our mediator (1 John 2:1) all use the same word.

      As you can see, the range is quite large, so we have to use the context to determine the tone. That the translated word (the recipient language) might have a different tone or connotation from the original word (the source language) is inevitable. To get the right meaning/feel of the original word is the other side of the problem because we don’t have any native speaker of Biblical Greek today, so our understanding of words are based on studies (both from the Bible and from outside source of the same period).

      In some cases, a meaning can be quite different from a particular translation, and we can point those out. In this case it is hard to tell the little difference between parakaleo and the English “comfort,” especially since we all have a different understanding of the word “comfort” too.

  2. Here is Roman 12:1 (TNIV) “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is true worship. “, but I can’t tell which word has the meaning “to comfort” of “comfort”.

    However, John 14:16 shed light on me re the word – advocate, helper or comforter, the Holy Spirit; as well as in 1 John 2:1 the advocate again or mediator, Christ. Even though Paul’s letter, 2 Corinthians was written earlier than John and 1 John, one still can say they were relatively written in the same period of time.

    To me, advocate, helper, comforter or mediator in addition to the context of 2 Corinthians 1, would definitely instill a stronger meaning and rock solid support or confidence or strength or rescue from God.

    That is why Paul and his team were able to endure and get through those distress, hardship, trials and difficulties that are considered by far greater than our distress, hardship, trials and difficulties nowadays, because of the Father of compassion and God of all comfort (v. 3-7).

    • The word in Romans 12:1 is “urge.” I am using it to illustrate that in this context, the English word “comfort” probably doesn’t translate well. The reason is the range of meaning in one language is not necessarily the same in another language. The Chinese word 勸 has a closer range as it can sometimes be translated as comfort but sometimes as urge. But that is introducing yet another language. I am not saying that the Chinese 勸 is closer to Greek “parakaleo.” I am just showing that this kind of issues is what translators need to wrestle with.

      We know theologically that God is not the same as human beings, so to say that God’s comfort is different from human comfort, especially if you are thinking of some soft comforting that is associated with a language, is fine. But we get that information because of theology, our knowledge about God, and/or context. Sometimes you cannot get that just by language alone. Remember Greek is just another language. It is not a language created to communicate the Bible. It is a common language.

      As an example, just think of the word “joy” as fruit of the Spirit. It certainly is different from joy as in “the joy of baking” or “the joy of owning a Ferrari.” But you do not get the difference by the word joy. You get the difference from your knowledge about joy taught in the Bible.

      In the case that you mentioned, you are taking the advocate, helper, comforter, or mediator to get the sense of “comfort” in 2 Corinthians, but this is doing it backward. You are using the translation to understand the original language. The translation is John, Roman, and 1 John all has its context. In fact, the reason that the Holy Spirit is translated as comforter or helper or 保惠師 or 勸慰師 is because there isn’t a clear-cut translation, so translators sometimes have to interprete (and they do disagree and that is why we have different translations), but going into details of each translation and considering each reasoning and strength or weakness is going to take too long to write out.

      Also, if we take that the word comfort in 2 Cor means God is giving them special strength, then we have to explain if Paul meant the same when he said they could comfort others. If we are reading that God’s comforting Paul is slightly different from Paul’s comforting others, then we have to explain how we see that small difference. In other words, how is the word used in 2 difference senses in the same passage. We could probably make the case by the context, but not from the word meaning.

      But returning to the original intent, the text is probably not talking about the specific way that God comforts them, but the text explains about God’s comfort so that we can comfort others in other afflictions and that our comfort overflows in our afflictions.

      Again, I am not disagreeing that God’s comfort is different than human comfort, but the point is we cannot get that sense from the Greek word comfort, and that is also not what this text is stressing. It is theologically correct and is a good lesson, but we will have to rely on context and/or other passages.

  3. Thank you for taking time to teach me and explain the reasons!
    I got it – you meant I IMPORTED the meaning of “comfort”, i.e., advocate, helper, comforter or mediator from other text, John 14:16 and 1 John 2:1 into 2 Corinthians. And these words “advocate, helper, comforter or mediator”, don’t belong to 2 Corinthians. Thus, by doing so, I added something into the text of 2 Corinthians that was NOT originally intended by Paul.

    Moreover the meanings of these words “advocate, helper, comforter or mediator” are not seen from the context here.

  4. Yes, and this one is particularly difficult because even the meaning of advocate or mediator is really based on context. The original word meaning is more general.

    But feel free to ask questions or discuss in the future. I sometimes don’t get into details in the blog articles themselves because of length and generality of audience.

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