2 Corinthians 2:1 “I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you” (NIV).

Observation: Much of 2 Corinthians and the beginning of the second chapter seem to be travelogue. Paul wrote in 1:15 about having tried to arrange his itinerary so as to visit the Corinthian church twice, but then, “in order to spare” them (1:23) “another painful visit” (2:1), he had kept his distance for a season. He went on to say that he had written a difficult letter to them so when they met again they would not be distressed; in other words, he wanted them to have a chance to digest his admonitions and make needed course corrections, thus to result in Paul’s rejoicing. He assured them that as tough as his earlier letter was, it was written through great distress, anguish of heart, and many tears not to grieve them but to convey the depth of his love for them (2:4).

Application: If I rush through this passage too quickly I may miss its revelation of the goodness of God’s heart to those He loves. It was for grace that Paul kept his distance for a season. It was for mercy’s sake that he wrote them a tough letter, motivated not by a desire to appear critical, but by a heart so filled with love for them that he wanted nothing to mar their next visit. So he stayed away a while longer. This causes me to reflect on those seasons when God Himself has kept His distance and remained silent. I cry out as Christ did from the cross, “Why have You forsaken me?” yet the heavens give evidence neither of hearing nor responding. I was left to twist painfully in my own place of death, sorrowful in His seeming abandonment.

Paul’s absence was motivated by love. God’s slowness to ride in on His celestial white horse and slay my attacking dragons was strategy; it was grace. What do I believe about God in such a moment? Scripture gives no suggestion that Christ interpreted God’s brief forsaking as permanent abandonment. His cry came in a horrible moment that seemed eternal, yet was a necessary step on His path to destiny’s fulfillment. So it is with me. God has given me this model: He would appear to forsake even His own Son. Do I count myself somehow better than He, somehow more deserving? In the forsakenness of my darkest turmoil, there is hope. Restoration to full effectiveness is an absolute certainty if I will but cling to this reality in my night seasons.

Prayer: Father, Your apparent forsaking is always for a purpose, isn’t it? Even in Your silence You are motivated by a love so great I cannot conceive it. Like a dried up old widow, I long for Your invitation to the bridal chamber of fresh relationship. I cling to You, Lord. I love You.