Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16
It started with a tickle in my throat. Uh oh, I thought. That tickle turned out to be influenza. And that was just the beginning of bronchial affliction. Influenza morphed into whooping cough—yes, that whooping cough—and that turned into pneumonia.
Eight weeks of torso-wracking coughing—it’s not called whooping cough for nothing—has left me humbled. I don’t think of myself as old. But I’m old enough to start thinking about heading in that direction. A member of my small group at church has a funny name for the health issues that assail us as we age: “the dwindles.” But there’s nothing funny about dwindling’s work “in action.”
In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul too wrote—in his own way—about “the dwindles.” That chapter chronicles the persecution he and his team endured. Fulfilling his mission had taken a heavy toll: “Outwardly we are wasting away,” he admitted. But even as his body failed—from age, persecution, and harsh conditions—Paul held tightly to his sustaining hope: “Inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (v. 16). These “light and momentary troubles,” he insisted, can’t compare to what awaits: “an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (v. 17).
Even as I write tonight, the dwindles claw insistently at my chest. But I know that in my life and that of anyone who clings to Christ, they’ll not have the last word.
What “dwindles” are affecting you or someone you love right now? What can help you maintain your faith and hope during seasons of struggle or discouragement with health issues?
Father, even as our bodies “waste away,” help me to see those physical struggles through the lens of our hope in Jesus and the glory He promises.
A common theme in Paul’s writing is the connection between human frailty and God’s power. In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul says we’re like jars of clay, yet we hold great treasure. He illustrates this contrast by showing how the power of God has sustained him. Although he was persecuted, struck down, and continually faced harm because he was a believer in Jesus, he wasn’t crushed, in despair, abandoned, or destroyed because God’s power was at work in him (vv. 8–10). Paul returns to this theme in chapter 12, where he delights that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (12:9).