Last week was exceedingly discouraging. We had been praying about a particularly painful trial, asking the Lord to spare us from walking through it, but instead received notification that we will be required to walk through it. The weight of the impending holidays was already upon us, Thanksgiving, Sarah’s birthday and then Christmas. A painful series of “seconds without Sarah” about to fall like a line of dominoes, and now we add this additional heavy trial behind those. As we were still staggering from the news of the trial, our adversary saw our dismay and opportunistically pounced with a barrage of smaller emotionally depleting schemes (2 Cor. 2:11).
“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this [house] we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 [NASB]
Weary, battle worn and greatly discouraged I opened the Word to bask in it. 2 Corinthians 5 was the next chapter in my daily reading. I’ve meditated on verses 1-4 (above) multiple times since the accident and I found comfort in them once again. Prior to Sarah’s departure I did not fully relate to the groaning Paul speaks of, but now I deeply understand as my soul continually groans with longing. I long to be liberated from my own sin and fallenness, from the painful impacts and consequences of the sins of others, and from the fallenness of the world about us. Oh how I desperately long to be swallowed up by life.
In retrospect, I had previously been so captivated by verses 1-4 that I had failed to absorb the verses that follow. This week was different, though. Against the backdrop of my discouragement I was immediately struck by the statement that we are “of good courage” repeated twice in verses 5-8 (below).
“Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord– for we walk by faith, not by sight– we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:5-8 [NASB]
Be of good courage: God has prepared us for this very purpose
“Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.” 2 Corinthians 5:5 [NASB]
We are strengthened to be of good courage by knowing God has prepared us for this very purpose. God has prepared us to be “clothed with our dwelling from heaven.” God has prepared us to wait expectantly for eternity. It is good and right to groan with longing to be liberated from the temporal and clothed with the eternal. This longing for eternity is not a sinful lack of contentment, but an appropriate longing for the fulfillment of the promises of grace He has prepared for us.
God has also prepared us through His gift of the Holy Spirit as a pledge. Through the teaching of the indwelling Holy Spirit we are strengthened to be of good courage. The presence of the Holy Spirit is a precious foretaste of abiding in His presence. We now hear His voice but one day, in just a little while, we shall behold our Savior and God face to face (Heb. 10:37; Rev. 22:3-4).
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 14:26 [NASB]
Be of good courage: We walk by faith not by sight
“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord– for we walk by faith, not by sight–“ 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 [NASB]
I can’t see God’s hand in the midst of this specific trial. I can’t see how He will deliver, vindicate, sustain and heal in the coming months. I am strengthened to be of good courage by Paul’s reminder that we walk by faith and not by sight. I can’t see how He will do it, but I know that He who has promised is faithful and in His time He will accomplish all He has promised.
The same Greek word tharreō, translated as “good courage” in 2 Corinthians 5, is translated “confidently” in Hebrews 13:6 (below). Because He has promised He will never leave me nor forsake me I am of good courage to say with Paul, “The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
“… for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5b-6 [ESV]
Be of good courage: This is not our Home
“we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8 [NASB]
I am so thankful we are repeatedly reminded throughout scripture that this world is not our home. We are strengthened to be of good courage in the midst of our temporal suffering by the reminder that our preference as believers is to be absent from the body and to be at Home with the Lord. In recognizing the brevity of this temporal life we are strengthened with good courage to live the remainder of our days urgently and fruitfully for Him.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if [I am] to live [on] in the flesh, this [will mean] fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both [directions,] having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for [that] is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,” Philippians 1:21-25 [NASB]
Be of good courage: Our sole ambition is to be pleasing to Him
“Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:9 [NASB]
What tremendous encouragement I found in this reminder that my sole ambition is to be pleasing to Him. In the midst of my discouragement I had allowed my attention to shift to pleasing men. I was wrongly allowing their approval and disapproval to affect my courage. Reading this verse the Holy Spirit brought to memory Paul’s words to the Galatians, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” (Gal 1:10 [NASB]).
“Suffer hardship with [me,] as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” 2 Timothy 2:3-4 [NASB]
Such blessed encouragement to be reminded the only One whom I am striving to please is the very One who sees and knows my heart. He is “compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. … For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:8, 14 [NASB]).
I am so thankful for God’s faithfulness to speak through His Word. With compassionate lovingkindness He spoke to my discouraged heart not once, but twice, “be of good courage.” He gently reminded me that He has prepared me for eternity, to be swallowed up by life, and to fix my hope completely on that. Though I can not see the way before me, I am of good courage as I am reminded I am walking by faith and not by sight. And above all, I praise God that this is not my home and my only responsibility, my sole ambition, is to please Him and no other. Hallelujah! Come, Lord Jesus!
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 [NASB]
‘So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.’ And, ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’ But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:35-39 [NIV]
Artwork: Sarah Harmening