My warm breath elicited a cloud of water vapor as it emerged from my mouth. It was nothing unusual during the winter, except it was occurring in my dormitory room. It was my freshman year in college and I had returned from winter break in Hawaii, my home state. It was a balmy 80 degrees when I left and I returned to a damp and chilly 50 degrees in Southern California. As I bundled in my ski jacket and rubbed my hands together, my resident advisor strolled into my room. He was dressed in a thin tee-shirt, short pants, and open sandals. His face was red and wet with perspiration. He walked straight to my window and opened it.
“What are you doing!” I bellowed. “I’m freezing in here!”
Seemingly ignoring my outburst, he then turned on my fan which was positioned in front of the window, and let it blow on him. “Aaah,” he sighed.
“What are you doing?” I was incredulous. “Did you just work out?”
“I just flew in from Minnesota. It was 40 below when I left. This is a 90-degree swing for me. I’m burning up!”
Our bodies adjust to the temperatures to which we are accustomed, our comfort levels relative to one another. Levels of pain and stress also appear to be held in a relative context. A painful and humiliating scolding on the job, an embarrassing trip in front of a room of people-for some, the trauma lasts a lifetime while for others, it is immediately brushed off. This relativism may lead to conflict and misunderstanding when these experiences are shared with another who may not be willing or capable of empathizing. Yet, there are some experiences that few, if any, would question as painful and traumatic.
If anyone had a right to complain, it was the Apostle Paul. In a remarkable letter to the Corinthian church, Paul recounted the sufferings he endured as a follower of Jesus Christ. He was whipped by the Jews on at least five different occasions, beaten with rods three times, stoned, shipwrecked three times, and imprisoned (2 Corinthians 11:21-29 ESV)-and this was the abridged version of his toils and sufferings! Tortured and left for dead on numerous occasions, Paul endured and persevered. Why?
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10 (ESV)
Like the amusing experience of my college dormitory resident advisor, some shared experiences elicit different responses depending upon our tolerance levels. Paul delighted in His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Trials and tribulations that would cause a lesser person to fall and recant their faith only strengthened his resolve to serve His God. He knew that any pain and suffering he experienced, would never compare to the anguish and ultimate sacrifice that Jesus Christ endured on behalf of him and everyone who has ever lived.
If we confess and repent of our sins and place our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will receive the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. Jesus will comfort us with His yoke of compassion and share our burdens, lifting us from any self-pity or loathing.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.