Philippians 1:23-24
For I am in a strait between two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:…

From the word strait employed in our translation we are apt to take up the notion of pain and difficulty. This is not the idea which the apostle intended to express. Literally the word signifies to be between two, and held by both at the same time. In ordinary circumstances, and in the present case especially, this is pleasanter and safer than to be held by only one. This strait is the happiest condition in which a living man can be. It is not a position of distraction from which he would fain escape, but a position of solid repose. To be grasped and drawn by either of these emotions alone would bend and break a man; to be attracted equally by both produces a delicious equilibrium. The spiritual fact may be explained by a material example. Suppose a man is standing aloft upon a pedestal where he finds room to plant his feet and no more. Suppose that one neighbour stands near him on the right hand, and another near him on the left. If one of these grasp and draw him, his posture immediately becomes uneasy and dangerous. Under the strain he does not keep his footing easily, and will not keep it long. But if both should grasp him, either seizing a hand, and draw with equal force in opposite directions, the result would be an erect attitude and an easy position. Such precisely in the spiritual department is the equilibrium of a believer who is held and drawn by both these desires at once. It is the strait betwixt two that makes him easy. Either of these desires wanting the other would distress him in proportion to its strength. On the one hand, a desire to abide in the flesh without a balancing desire to depart and to be with Christ, is a painful condition. The weight hanging on one side racks the person all over. Most men are crushed in this manner all their days. The Redeemer knows this sorrow and provides relief. One specific design of His coming was "to deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." As soon as one of these tremblers is begotten again into a living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the balance is restored and deliverance effected. On the other hand, the converse is equally true, although not equally common. To experience a desire to depart, unbalanced by a desire to abide in the flesh, is also a painful experience. Many Christians pass through at least a short period of this unevenness and uneasiness before they are set free. Whatever may be the immediate causes which have made life wearisome to a Christian, whenever the desire to abide dies out, the desire to depart distracts him. It may be that most of us at present would gladly bargain for such a state of mind at the close of life, as being the safest; but it is, notwithstanding, and not the less a painful state of mind.

(W. Arnot, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

WEB: But I am in a dilemma between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

St. Paul's Doubt and Desire
Top of Page
Top of Page