“For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”
The next phrase of verse 27 is one of those great instances of “but God” in the New Testament. Each time a “but God” occurs, it transforms the situation. Whenever we need mercy from God, we need to look for the “but God.”
“but God had mercy on him”
“But” in the Greek is a strong term of contrast. Epaphroditus was almost at the point of death—but God. God was the source of his healing. This healing was directly from God. No other agent was involved. Paul did not heal him. Evidently Paul could not heal him. God intervened directly from His sovereignty.
This “but God” has to do with physical healing. God sustained him physically. He almost died. Another “but God,” which is associated with “mercy,” correlates with our spiritual condition: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us” (Eph. 2:4). The previous verses describe our desperate spiritual state, and then verse 4 says, “But God.” God turned the situation around.
“not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow”
It was bad enough for Paul to be imprisoned in a rat-infested jail with no blankets, food, or clothes. But if Epaphroditus died, he would suffer yet another heavy burden. He might have even thought it was his own fault. But when God healed Epaphroditus, it was mercy on Paul as well. God did not let sorrow stack upon sorrow. God does not allow us to carry burdens more than we can bear.
God will never allow us to be put into a situation too heavy for us to bear.
Do we trust God to manage the adversity that comes into our lives? Can we trust Him to know when the load is too heavy? Do we believe that God is a God of mercy? Can we trust God to exercise that mercy when it is necessary? This verse is praise to God for showing mercy in healing one man and emotional mercy to another. Do we trust God for both kinds of mercy?