What I Learned from Visiting Paul’s Prison Cell

Seven lessons that point us to a hope in suffering that is grounded in the truth of the gospel.

I’ve read 2 Timothy many times, but after visiting the prison where Paul penned this letter, the words now seem to jump off the pages. The letter carries a weight I had never before noticed. In it, Paul sheds light on suffering and how we must view our trials as believers in Christ. We are guaranteed to have suffering on this side of eternity, but many people struggle to understand their trials in relation to a just and loving God.

 

As I walked down the stairs, I was chilled by the dampness of the cell. This was a place of darkness, hopelessness, and death. A place where men who were going to be killed were chained to a wall, sitting in their own filth, waiting for the executioner to come and end their life.

It was in this unlikely place that Paul wrote a book to his beloved Timothy—a book filled with vast amounts of wisdom; a message of light, hope, and eternal life to all who would believe.

I’ve read 2 Timothy many times, but after visiting the prison where Paul penned this letter, the words now seem to jump off the pages. The letter carries a weight I had never before noticed.

In it, Paul sheds light on suffering and how we must view our trials as believers in Christ. We are guaranteed to have suffering on this side of eternity, but many people struggle to understand their trials in relation to a just and loving God.

Paul’s words in his second letter to Timothy offer seven lessons that point us to a hope in suffering that is grounded in the truth of the gospel.

THE POWER OF ETERNAL LIFE

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, (2 Tim. 1:1).

The promise of life. A simple statement, but one that carries power to someone who is suffering. Paul knew a promise from God was absolute. As believers, we too should rest in God’s promises because we know God is true to his word and character.

For Paul, the promise of eternal life was a certainty. He was confident that no amount of suffering in the present age could deter him from the eternal joy he would have in Christ.

As believers, we too must set our hearts and minds on the eternal. 2 Corinthians states that all momentary afflictions are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison. This should empower us and help us to not lose heart.

The same power that brought Jesus back from the dead now lives within us, and one day we will rise again and have eternal life with him. This truth can allow us to suffer well, knowing no power of hell or man can separate us from God.

WE HAVE A SUFFERING GOD

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel (2 Tim. 2:8).

We don’t just have a God who wants to eliminate suffering; we have a God who experienced suffering to the highest degree when he took on our sins and died on the cross. He can personally relate to the physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering we face. He is not indifferent to our pain.

He truly understands our agony like no one else ever could. The holes in Jesus’ hands and feet will be an eternal testament to that.

The fact that we have a God who suffered gives us peace and confidence in his future grace towards us. Jesus asked that the cup pass from him (Matt. 26:39), and yet it did not. He bore immense suffering on the cross so that we could be saved from eternal damnation. This suffering was necessary for our salvation.

Similarly, we may need to endure suffering on this side of eternity so God’s glory and the gospel can go out into the world.

We can rest confidently in the fact that our crown of salvation is forever secure because we have a God who cares for us during our suffering and promises to be with us.

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