“Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me: my care for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If boasting is necessary, I will boast about my weaknesses” (2 Corinthians 11:28-30).
Thus far in 2 Corinthians chapter eleven, Paul the Apostle has mentioned travel-related dangers, physical abuse, insufficient clothing, and the threats posed by thieves and others among his list of ministerial hardships. But now Paul will add an internal component to that list in verse twenty-eight: “As if these external trials weren’t enough, there is the daily stress I feel and anxiety I carry for all the churches under my care” (Voice).
So Paul was not only concerned about the issues facing the Corinthian church; he was equally concerned for the other churches he helped to establish. Some commentators believe Paul may have played a role in organizing over a dozen churches across two continents- and his interest in their well-being extended to a personal, individual level.
Yet unlike those who sought to generate praise and recognition for their efforts, Paul went on to shift the focus of discussion away from these challenges and hardships to the subject of his weaknesses. Although this is a topic that people often seek to avoid, we’ll find a good explanation for this change in the following chapter of this letter.
For now, we can say that these experiences served to identify Paul with Jesus who was prophetically described as “…a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 RSV). While we may never experience the range of sufferings described for us in 2 Corinthians 11:22-28, we can also learn to rely on Christ to persevere through our weaknesses as we endure the sorrows, indignities, and struggles of daily life.
Finally, this portion of Scripture offers an opportunity to make a personal application. Despite his reluctance to boast, Paul was involved in several areas of ministry that enabled him to respond to the challenges presented by these false apostles in Corinth. This should prompt us to ask if we are similarly involved in an area of ministry that allows us to honor God for what He has accomplished (or is working to accomplish) through us.
If we cannot readily point to such a ministry, perhaps its time to inventory the skills, talents, abilities, and opportunities that God has entrusted to us and prayerfully seek to employ them in His service.