“We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed”

(2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

In his Our Daily Bread devotional (11-13-06), David McCasland shares the following story:

In 2005, the surprising Boys Town High School Cowboys carried a perfect record into a Nebraska state semi-final football game. But more important, the players had taken giant strides toward overcoming their family backgrounds of abuse, abandonment, and neglect that had brought them to the safe, caring environment of Boys Town.

 Their coach, Kevin Kush, believes that football is a way to build character, and says: “Victories at Boys Town are not won on a present-day athletic field. They are won years from now in cities and towns across this country when our players become productive citizens.” His team plays to win while pursuing higher goals of sportsmanship, discipline, and teamwork.

Paul had a similar long-range view of our experience as followers of Christ. In the midst of personal setbacks, he urged the Corinthians not to lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:17). In spite of loss, we are to pursue the higher goals of God’s kingdom now, anticipating our eternal triumph in Christ.

Paul encourages us with these words in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9:

We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed–-Our enemies may surround us and difficulties may come from every side, but they will not crush or defeat us because we have God’s peace and protection.  He has cleared a path just wide enough for our exit.

Perplexed, but not in despair—Our way may be thwarted or completely blocked yet we can persevere because there is just enough light to see the next step or a way of escape.

Persecuted, but not abandoned—The enemy doggedly pursues us but our God stands nearby. He will never desert us.-

Struck down, but not destroyed—Even though the enemy, sickness, troubles and trials strike us and knock us down, it is not a fatal blow.  We will rise again!  We may be overthrown but we shall overcome!

Although the word “hope” does not appear in these two verses, they describe how hope operates.  Hope is the confident expectation we have in the character, promises, goodness, and power of our God.  It is expressed in the four times Paul used the simple words “but not.”  In the midst of our overwhelming circumstances, we can and we must hope in Him (Romans 15:13).

The Boys Town Cowboys were “disappointed but not devastated” when they lost their playoff game 10-0.   McCasland further explains: “Their coach had taught them to keep going because their true victory in life is still to come.  And so is ours in Christ.”  (See v. 14.)

Lord, give us grace to trust You when

Life’s burdens seem too much to bear;

Dispel the darkness with new hope

And help us rise above despair. –Sper