we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; [2 corinthians 4:8]
there’s a general paradigm that chapter four, verses eight and nine work within – paul (and believers) are harmed in some way but not in an ultimate way. down but not out so to speak. the esv study bible says there is a “temporal (apparent) defeat,” but the reality is there is “actual (spiritual) victory.” basically, paul is saying it’s bad but not over.
as i was studying this verse, i was having a hard time seeing how perplexed was the lesser version of despair. in my initial reading, perplexed was confused and despair was hopeless. and, hopeless doesn’t seem like the culmination of confusion. they didn’t seem like connected terms to me. that’s possibly just my lack of understanding vocabulary. but, if you’re like me, and this connection isn’t as apparent, i’d love to help connect the dots. i did some digging into the definitions of the words – particularly the original greek words. (i used an app called accordance to do this, but a free and really easily accessible resource is blueletterbible.org if you ever want to do something like this in your own personal study.) here’s what i found…
the greek word translated as perplexed means, “to be at a loss. to be at a stand[still], to be in doubt.”
to be at a loss – to not have the answer. to not know what to do next. suddenly, for me, the connection was apparent. i’ve experienced plenty of times when i was uncertain of what to do next. major life decisions or incredible difficulties like sin committed against me have brought confusion or a thought of, “why would this happen?” the temptation in those times is to slip into hopelessness…despair, to feel as though there is no solution. but the reality is, in Christ, we are never hopeless. even in our confusion he is present with us.
i encourage you to wrestle through this today. recognize your confusion and doubt. recognize the areas in your life where you are perplexed. repent of despair in those areas. repent of things that you think are too difficult for God to work through. and, ask him to make his presence known to you in the midst of these things. instead of believing he is nowhere to be found and you have no hope, sit in his presence in the midst of the confusion and allow him to speak peace and hope to you.
draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. [james 4:8a]
~ keith kozlowski