Lately I’ve found myself returning again and again to the first few chapters of 2 Corinthians for the perspective and comfort offered here. In just a few pages, Paul offers insight into so many key questions:
- How does God feel toward us in our suffering? (1:1-11)
- How can we be confident without being proud? (3:1-6)
- And how do we proceed when a door is open for ministry but we don’t feel peace? Why? (2:12-14)
This week it’s that last question that has held a gift for me.
Here’s how Paul shares his own experience:
Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.(2 Corinthians 2:12-13)
It’s quite striking to me that Paul can say “The Lord had opened a door for me” and “I left” and not offer more of an explanation. If I was the one writing, I would have felt obliged to clarify my intent. Was I offering the situation to my readers as an example to be followed—that if God opens a door and we don’t have peace, we should follow our emotions? Was I saying, “I didn’t do things the best way here but it’s okay because. . .”?
But Paul doesn’t say either of these explicitly. He just offers the facts as he sees them:
- God had opened a door for him to preach the gospel.
- He had no peace because he was worried about a missing co-worker.
- In the midst of this tension, he chose to leave and go looking for the co-worker rather than walking through the open door.
And Paul seems fine to leave it there, not needing to analyze or agonize or explain because he is confident that wherever he goes, God is with him and in him and flowing through him.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.(2 Corinthians 2:14)
Yes, we prayerfully and carefully look at all the aspects of the situation. An open door is a precious opportunity not to be taken for granted. So is peace of mind. There are whole helpful books written about how to navigate this tension. (Hint: peace matters).
But this week the gift for me was this simple reminder: There is a spaciousness and freedom in this place where God’s work and ours overlap. As we prayerfully listen and choose as best we can, we can rest in the truth that God’s presence is limitless and his loving work in the world is vast. Wherever we end up, God is with us and in us, and can through us spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ.