“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Here we get to witness a shepherd and his flock coming through the other side of what seems to have been an intense conflict. Paul asks the people of Corinth to open their hearts to him and to remember that he has never taken advantage of them. He even goes so far as to say that they have such a place in the hearts of him and those with him that they would live or die with them.
What are all of these words leading up to? “I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds” (2 Corinthians 7:4). It appears that while going through some very significant difficulties in Macedonia, Paul received good news from Titus, who had just returned from Corinth. As a shepherd does, he had corrected his flock with the authority given to him, and there was, of course, some discord for a time as they struggled under that discipline. Yet, “even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance” (verses 8 and 9).
Oh, what good news for Paul! His spiritual children had received their discipline as if from a father, and observed Paul’s love for them through it all. Their concern for Paul was renewed (verse 7), increasing his joy. They had cleared their consciences and witnessed what unity should look like. And they experienced God’s purpose in the trials and conflicts He allows into our lives, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (verse 10).
Christians can take heart in the fact that God does not waste any of the brokenhearted moments of our lives, but He uses them to make us more like His Son. But what a waste to experience sorrow as a result of our sin! Can you imagine how different Paul’s letter would have been if Titus’ report had been filled with descriptions of a broken church, full of indignant, bitter men and women who had written off their leader for daring to point a finger at them? The loss that they would have experienced would have been far greater than the brief moments of grief they experienced as they wrestled with the chastisement laid upon them. And, oh, the gain! Every struggle with sin in which we submit to the victory already won for us through Christ grants us a greater sense of the grace of God and encourages the Body as we have renewed unity, having nothing to separate us from our Father or the family of God. Take heart! He has overcome.