Paul? Not Paul of all people! It couldn’t be true that the first-century missionary with the get-in-your-face personality had a deep-seated anxiety!
But Paul himself identified it in one of his letters to the Corinthians:
I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced. (2 Corinthians 12:21 NASB)
It’s hard to imagine the Apostle Paul being afraid of anything, let alone that God would humiliate him. Just a few paragraphs earlier, he had written matter of factly and without an iota of complaint:
Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:25-28 NASB)
And that’s only a sample of what Paul had been through! So why was he hounded with the fear that God would humiliate him? From the reports Paul had been getting, his work to build up the fledgling church in Corinth had not taken root. He was frightened that at his next visit he would be filled with shame unless the insincere Christians had made a reversal and straightened up their lives.
If they had not chosen the right way by then, God would allow him to stand before them demoralized. While facing that abject possibility, however, one little word signals that Paul was not done in. It’s the word “my.”
When Paul writes “my God,” he is assuring himself he has God’s abiding presence even if the dreaded scenario plays out. Paul places his faith, hope, and love in the God he worships and serves. The God he knows from experience. He may not like God’s design at the moment, but he will acquiesce to it.
Whatever the outcome of that visit was, Paul did not let go of “my God.” Five or so years later, he sent these positive words to the Philippian church: “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NASB).