As people, we are constantly learning, growing, and evolving. In 2 Corinthians Paul challenges us to lean into growth and strengthen our minds, bodies, and emotions toembrace and follow the way of Jesus. In doing so, we are growing closer to God.
8-9 I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don’t feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I’m glad—not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss.
10 Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.
11-13 And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart. And that is what I was hoping for in the first place when I wrote the letter. My primary concern was not for the one who did the wrong or even the one wronged, but for you—that you would realize and act upon the deep, deep ties between us before God. That’s what happened—and we felt just great.
13-16 And then, when we saw how Titus felt—his exuberance over your response—our joy doubled. It was wonderful to see how revived and refreshed he was by everything you did. If I went out on a limb in telling Titus how great I thought you were, you didn’t cut off that limb. As it turned out, I hadn’t exaggerated one bit. Titus saw for himself that everything I had said about you was true. He can’t quit talking about it, going over again and again the story of your prompt obedience, and the dignity and sensitivity of your hospitality. He was quite overwhelmed by it all! And I couldn’t be more pleased—I’m so confident and proud of you.
Growth is a natural part of life, both physically and spiritually. But this “naturalness” doesn’t mean that growth is painless. Growth calls into action new parts of our minds, our emotions, our bodies. What we experience at these times often feels like pain. We aren’t used to stretching ourselves in these ways. But the pain shouldn’t surprise us—our muscles ache whenever we take up new activities; they’re stretched in ways they aren’t used to.
Athletes get sore muscles when they begin their training. Similarly, as we’re in training in the Christian life, it stretches us beyond ourselves, and that hurts. But this kind of pain is very different from the kind that’s inflicted by torture. Growing pains are the kinds we don’t regret, because they lead to a fuller life, not a diminished one.
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