Human Suffering

Human Suffering“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.” - 2 Timothy 4:6

"Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars."1
As the apostle Paul sat in a dark, cold, dripping Roman prison for the last time, the mud and dust that coated his body symbolized his life. Paul was now a nobody. He had been subjected to humiliation, stripped of his honors as a Roman citizen and Hebrew Pharisee.  He had become a joke to his enemies. His final miseries were proof that God had abandoned him. To the world, he was beaten.

You might read this and think, well, that was the apostle Paul. We all know he ended up a hero of the Christian faith, still read and revered centuries later. But try to put yourself in his place at the end of his life.

Imagine yourself stripped of success, scorned by others for your failures, sick, beaten down, worn out by the world. 

We will all experience disappointment, sorrow or weariness at some point. We will not all retire in comfort, easing our way out to pasture playing golf or going to lunch. Some will push to the end, sacrifice creature comfort, and pour out their lives until God takes them home.

Paul was human. He suffered, just as Jesus suffered. 

To describe how he felt, he used the vivid image of “being poured out like a drink offering,” from the Jewish custom of pouring wine at the base of the altar as part of the ritual sacrifice of a lamb (Exodus 29:40-41).

The image of red wine splashing down upon the stones portrayed Paul’s life—an offering to his Lord.

From the time of his conversion, he gave everything to God—his health, his body, his brilliant mind, his passion, his reputation, his relationships, his dreams…everything! For years, the red blood of his life had been spilling for the name of Jesus, and now, at the end, all that remained were his last breaths, his final words to his beloved church.

As he sat in that Roman prison, I believe he looked up, lifted his head above the mud and pain around him, and saw stars. When we sellout to Jesus, that is what we will see, no matter how desperate our circumstances.

“When I look at the stars, I see someone else. 
When I look at the stars… I feel like myself.” —Switchfoot

 

  1. Reverend Frederick Langbridge, (1849-1922)

[Photo: Marian Trinidad, CreationSwap]