Chapter four returns to the theme of Paul’s personal struggles in carrying out his ministry, especially toward the Corinthians. Although there was a great deal to discourage them, including satanic opposition, Paul’s cure to keep himself from depression was to do the one thing he was called to do: continue preaching the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:1-6). This worked against his discouragement as he was always reminded that “we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ . . . For God . . . is the one who shined in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6). Paul’s proper focus helped him frame his attitude in situations that could throw him off track.
A second key perspective that Paul held was the temporal nature of this world, especially his physical body. A look through Acts and Paul’s other letters show that he suffered great physical abuse throughout his ministry, at the hands of both Jews and Gentiles (see 2 Corinthians 6:4-5; 11:23-27). Too often believers approach this world as if it should be like heaven. Paul knew that his body was fragile, like a “clay jar” (2 Corinthians 4:7). However, he had an “extraordinary power” from God so that no matter how he was in “trouble . . . perplexed . . . persecuted . . . knocked down,” he refused to be “crushed . . . driven to despair . . . abandoned . . . destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). No matter how often he was “handed over to death,” it was always “for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:11), and he would certainly be resurrected into Jesus’ presence one day (2 Corinthians 4:14). “Therefore, we do not despair,” because, no matter what happens to the body, it cannot destroy our spirits, which God continues to renew. Paul’s eternal perspective allowed him to press on through temporary pain (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). What a wonderful encouragement this should be to every believer who suffers from terrible life situations or depression!