When a person studies the life of Paul there is no shortage of information. There is his life before the conversion on the road to Damascus. Then there is his life as a missionary for God and the cause of Jesus Christ. It seems no matter what phase of life Paul was in there were people who did not like the way he followed God. Whether it was persecuting the followers of Jesus, or himself being persecuted for following Jesus, Paul faced challenge in his journey. In this letter to the church at Corinth he lists out some of the ways he has faced challenge. At first read it could seem like Paul is simply whining. Somehow though Paul does not seem like the whining type.
Yes Paul is listing the hardships and challenges he has faced, but not as a way to gain sympathy from the church, or us. We must remember the context of the church in Corinth. This is a city which is like modern day Las Vegas, only multiplied by a factor of 10. Corinth was a major stop along the trade routes, both land and sea, and host to many pleasures of the flesh. Not many people in that community were concerned with gods much less God. I am certain the church in Corinth was facing some challenges as they went about their work of following Christ. This is not to be confused with the relatively small challenges we face.
Paul is offering this list as a way of saying suck it up to the church in Corinth. It may be more a reflection of my thoughts, but I can hear Paul saying, "look. life is rough, but keep going. Keep doing what God has called you to do." Throughout his writings Paul seems to always be able to help the reader/hearer keep perspective. Often it is by showing the struggles he has faced, and comparing them with the light burden others are claiming to be huge.
Paul is not whining, but we often are really good at it. When we talk about the challenges we face, are we using them as a way to encourage, or are we whining looking for sympathy?