Not even the godly, devoted apostle Paul was immune to times of discouragement. He wrote to the Corinthians, “Trouble . . . came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
The Greek word that Paul uses for despair in this verse translates as, “We could not understand it; we despaired, even to death.” He’s saying, in short, “We longed to die, because we couldn’t comprehend what we were going through. We were pressed beyond our endurance.”
It’s hard to imagine these words coming from Paul. Who trusted God more than this fearless apostle? Who fasted and prayed more than Paul? Who had as many prayers answered? Yet there came upon Paul an hour of despondency such as he had never experienced. What was this condition?
Some Bible commentators believe it was a combination of trials. Among these was a deep mental anguish, caused by people whom Paul loved later turning against him. These close friends not only abandoned Paul but spread lies about him. They defamed his name. In addition, Paul was brought low by violent illnesses. He experienced shipwreck on more than one occasion, and evil plots were hatched against him, aimed at taking his life. On top of these things, Paul had anxiety over the care of many churches.
This would all seem too heavy for one man to bear. Yet even put together, all these things still don’t explain the deep despair Paul felt. He wrote, “I fell into such agony, I didn’t think I would survive. I thought it was going to kill me.”
Of course, Paul was delivered. He came out victoriously. But he never forgot that awful hour of despair.
“Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:10). Paul is saying, “God rescued us and He will rescue us again. We have put our confidence in Him and He will deliver us.”