Sunday Morning Greek Blog

September 18, 2011

“We Despaired of Life Itself”: 2 Corinthians 1:8–11; 4:7–10

Filed under: 2 Corinthians,Biblical Studies,Greek — Scott Stocking @ 8:48 am

8We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

My oldest brother, Neal, and his oldest son, Jeff, have been deployed in Afghanistan for the past year with their respective Guard units. Neal, who has been leading a couple construction units in two different parts of Afghanistan, is due to come home next month. Jeff has been serving as an MP at one of our bases in Afghanistan and will probably be home sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am proud of both of them and applaud them for their service to and sacrifice for our country. Both of Neal’s kids are grown. Jeff’s residence is in Omaha, and his son Chris lives in Kansas City. Neal’s wife Anne has been an absolute trooper as well, holding down the homestead in Omaha, and we’ve done what we can to support her and keep her engaged with the family in this time. It hasn’t been easy for her, but I hope she knows we have her back. Jeff is “unattached” (so far as we know, anyway!), but he still has his circle of friends whom I’m sure he misses and can’t wait to be reunited with.

My own life in the past year has been a microcosm of Jeff’s and Neal’s experience in the past year. One year ago this week, God “deployed” me back to my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, to experience some victory over the long battle I fought in Illinois with underemployment. I do not regret that during my underemployment in Illinois, I had the freedom to be there for my kids on a daily basis. I was the “soccer dad”, getting them to school every day (and sometimes subbing for their teachers!) and to their appointments, practices, games, and other events with friends. I was involved in every aspect of their lives.

Divorce wrenched me away from all that. Without full-time work in Illinois, and with zero hits on the countless positions (over two years of daily searching job opportunities; I lost count of how many) I applied for in Chicago and other places close to home, and with no other family nearby, it was impossible for me to support myself there and provide the kind of support for my kids that they deserved. I had distinctly heard God calling me back to Nebraska (“There Is No Place Like Nebraska” kept ringing in my ears), and I knew that’s where God wanted me to go. Upon reflection, I think the homesickness I had been feeling for Nebraska since about 2005 may have been God telling me that I should have gone back then, but uprooting the kids seemed out of the question, and it certainly would have been a battle with my current ex I probably would not have won, or it may have forced her hand to file for divorce then. That’s all speculation and water under the bridge now, and when I had no other choice after the divorce, I went forward with my plans to come back to Nebraska and be a “boomerang child.”

God honored my faithfulness to follow his lead in several ways. I got hired my first full day back in Nebraska for the first FT job I’d had in years. It was a temp job, but I was back on my feet. That led to my current job, the best-paying job I’ve ever held in my life. It’s a great job, and I’m using all my skills, from math to English to writing and editing. I also got reconnected to my former church. Fort Street Christian Church sent me off to seminary 24 years ago, and when I came back last year, Fort Street had become StoneBridge. Attendance had quintupled, and the congregation was as vibrant as any I had ever experienced. I made connections and new friends almost immediately, and I have experienced a great deal of spiritual and personal growth through my involvement there. The church has become my family here; I wasn’t going to sit around and bemoan the lost daily interaction with my kids, and I’ve used my relocation as an opportunity for God get some work done in me that I had neglected as a busy dad and resident home-improvement servant. My brother and nephew get hazard pay for being on foreign soil. My hazard pay has been the spiritual growth I’ve experienced.

But amidst that, I’ve still been struggling with the separation from my kids. It’s been difficult to meet my financial obligations, and as such, I haven’t been able to see my kids as often as I like. My ex refuses to meet me half-way to transfer the kids, so I have to make the 8-hour, one-way trip whenever I want to see them and spring for a hotel room. And if I want to bring them back to Omaha with me, that’s another 8–10 hours in the car. My ex constantly reminds me how that’s a “punishment” for the kids and that pretty much everything else I do is “punishment” for them, taking them away from their friends and activities to come to Omaha to spend time with me, and that it was my choice to move 500 miles from the kids (never mind I’m providing a lot more child support from here than I could have from Illinois; more “hazard pay” for the family). I know it’s not punishment, but sacrifice, but some days the stress of my separation makes me feel like Paul in the 2 Corinthians passage I quoted above.

I know the God of all comfort knew what he was doing when he deployed me to Nebraska. I have already seen some of the fruit he is bearing in my life, as my half-sister and dad have started coming to StoneBridge as well. I have a renewed spiritual vigor and great opportunities for service. But that has been kept in check by the incredible sense of loss I feel at being separated from my kids. Yes, I still have regular contact with them on the phone and through Skype (when the video connection works), but as you might imagine, it’s not the same for me or for my kids. I feel the despair of death some days, the pain is that deep, but I know God and my brothers and sisters in Christ and my family are upholding me.

For those of you looking for the Greek (and I debated whether I should include any at all in this post), here it is. Paul uses the Greek word for “despair” ἐξαπορέομαι (exaporeomai, \eks ah paw REH aw my\) or ἐξαπορέω (exaporeō, \eks ah paw REH oh\) only twice in all his writings (and the only two times in the New Testament). Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon says the word derives from ἐκ (ek, ‘from’ or ‘out of’) + ἀ (a, negative prefix) + πορεύομαι (poreuomai, ‘go’), or in other words, “not go out of” or figuratively “internalize,” thus Paul’s comment about feeling the weight of the pressure he’s under. I can see that, but I also discern another possible etymology: ἐκ (ek, ‘from’ or ‘out of’) + ἀπό (apo, ‘away from’) + ῥέω (rheō, ‘flow’), or “go out of and away from” or figuratively “abandon”. Either etymology is fitting of my own situation. The only other time Paul uses the word is a couple chapters later in 2 Corinthians 4:7–10:

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

The word for “perplexed” (contrasted with “despair”) in this passage is the same word in Greek without the ἐκ- prefix. As with the passage from chapter 1, this passage also brings me comfort: I’m at my wits’ end, but I haven’t yet given up all hope, although I feel the pressure to give up more and more. And maybe that’s the point of all this. Like 2 Corinthians 1:9 says, all this is happening so that I might not rely on myself (I’m certainly finding out that’s not working), but that I should rely totally and completely on God. After all, he raised the dead; he can certainly see me through my current struggles.

A side note: I know I may have come across a little harsh on my ex-wife here, but that is the reality of my situation. I know she is doing the best she can for the kids, and I’m sure she feels a different kind of pressure dealing with the kids daily without me being in the area to provide regular relief. In spite of our continued arguments about things, I know she’s doing a great job, and I trust that all things will work out for the best for all of us. My kids are strong and doing well, but I know they miss my presence as much as I miss theirs. I would appreciate your prayers for all of us.

Peace to all!

Scott Stocking

1 Comment »

  1. Good story! Even when one feels like they have failed…….failure does not occur until one

    gives up…..hang in there thanks for sharing.

    Comment by steve goldapp — September 18, 2011 @ 9:36 am | Reply

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