I read 2 Timothy with a degree of sadness and hope. Timothy has been Paul’s “right arm” for two decades. In 1 Timothy, we find him in spiritual trouble. By the second letter, he is even more so.
To think that someone like Timothy, who has been such a faith builder to others, could, himself, have a crisis of faith is astounding – so much so that commentators routinely ignore this obvious context. But it’s there.
What could have led him so far astray?
“Crisis” for a start. Here is Paul, his mentor, who, though an incredibly successful missionary, bears the scars of decades of deprivation, opposition, and persecution. Even now, he sits in an underground hole in Rome awaiting execution. How can God allow this and if God allows it for Paul, what might he allow for Timothy?
“Distraction” is another cause. Often Christians get so balled up in minor matters of polity that, on realizing their error, they find the whole process of serving God just too elementary. Surely there is more to Christianity than this!
There is also “fear.” Timothy and Paul have given their lives to the spread of the gospel and nurturing faith in others. All it’s gotten Paul is execution. When their contemporaries have embraced Christianity, gotten on with their lives, and probably worry little about getting old or how they will live when they can no longer work, Timothy likely has little material security to show for a lifetime of effort. What’s to happen to him?
Then one final thing: “age.” Did you wonder in the reading about 2:22? “Flee the evil desires of youth”?
I’ve written earlier that Timothy was no kid. He’s a more than middle aged man, going through everything that middle aged men go through. We want to be younger, recapture that vibrancy and excitement of our youth. It’s why we get those hair plugs, try those “skinny jeans,” flirt with younger women, and buy Corvettes (ok, we buy Corvettes because we can finally afford them, but come on, they’re really a young man’s car).
But there’s hope. Paul believed it for Timothy. He prayed it for him.
I want to believe Timothy pulled through, that Paul was right, and I find fulfillment in a text we will read later, probably written by Luke in Hebrews (yes, I kinda think Luke wrote Hebrews) in 13:23. “I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.” By the grace of God, Timothy pulled out of his funk. There’s hope for us all.