2 Timothy 1:4-7 – “As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
In his book, “Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures,” Martyn Lloyd Jones describes Timothy, Paul’s protégé like this: “Timothy, obviously, was a naturally nervous person, but equally he was a person given to depression; and the two things are often to be found in the same kind of person.” Other times in the book, he makes the point that one of Paul’s primary reasons for writing 2 Timothy was for Paul to encourage Timothy in his struggles. When you read 2 Timothy with this in mind, it is interesting to see how often Paul seems to be encouraging a discouraged Timothy.
Timothy was in fact a man who was struggling in ministry. He was most likely getting discouraged and possibly even persecuted for his preaching of the gospel (2 Timothy 1:8). He found himself dominated by fear and not by faith (2 Timothy 1:7). Paul felt it necessary to describe his own sufferings as he encouraged Timothy in the midst of his (2 Timothy 1:12). Paul said, “I remember your tears,” while also saying that he was reminded of Timothy’s sincere faith. Paul was letting Timothy know that he understood his struggle.
Not that we ever want others to struggle, but isn’t it encouraging that people throughout church history who have been heroes of the faith struggle like we do? Charles Spurgeon, possibly the most incredible preacher to ever live, struggled with massive bouts of depression. Hudson Taylor and John Paton faced days, weeks, and even years of discouragement and frustration while on the frontlines of ministry.
Look at Peter. Peter was a man in process. One moment he was walking on water, and the next moment he was denying Jesus to his face. Can you even imagine the feeling of failure Peter must have felt those three days after he denied Jesus while Jesus was in the grave? But then could you even imagine the sheer delight Peter had when he saw the resurrected Christ; and the opportunity that he had now to apologize for his failure!?
The Christian life is not easy. The Christian life is a life that is filled with ups and downs, and curve balls, and detours. It is a path that causes us to fall flat on our face one day, while soaring to mountain heights the next day. Take comfort in knowing the path that we walk is not a path that is totally unique to us. Others have stumbled along the way like we are. Take comfort in fixing your eyes on Jesus Christ, the one who walked this path before us. His path was a path of suffering and hardship and joy. May we rejoice when we are counted worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ!