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Archive for the ‘discouragement’ Category

disappointment

Into every life a little rain must fall. Into every life a little discouragement must come, too (sometimes a lot). Something you’ve put your heart and soul into fails. Someone you’ve invested in turns their back on you. A marriage, or another significant relationship, falls apart. You’re given a diagnosis that isn’t what you expected at all (and not in a good way). You’re passed over for a promotion – again. You read the email that begins with “there was a lot of interest in this job,” but they’re not interested in you. Christians aren’t immune from discouragement, either. Something doesn’t happen the way you wanted – something you’ve prayed about (a lot) and worked for. The result of all of these is the same, discouragement.

But what can be done about it? You won’t be surprised to know the answer is in the Bible! In Psalm 43, the sons of Korah tell us how we can deal with discouragement. The remedy comes in one verse in particular: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” 

When we find ourselves discouraged, according to Psalm 43:5, we need to be honest with ourselves and God. Notice that the author didn’t hide the fact that he was “in despair” and “disturbed within” himself (another translation says “downcast”). His discouragement was real and he didn’t candy-coat it or deny it. God knew the state of his heart, so what could be gained from trying to hide it? None whatsoever. When we’re discouraged, we should say so – to ourselves and to God. But we can’t stay there.

When we’ve admitted our discouragement, the next thing we should do is look to God. The psalmist says, “Hope in God,” which could also be translated “put your hope in God.” Discouragement should cause us to take our eyes off of ourselves and lift them to God. If we continue to focus on ourselves (and gaze at our own navels), the fog of discouragement will never lift. But if we do the hard thing and direct our focus upon God, the fog disappears and we see things more clearly. Looking to God and trusting Him gives us perspective.

When we look to God in the midst of our discouragement, we should be encouraged. Why? “For I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God,” says the psalmist. No matter how bleak things look now and no matter how dark and thick the discouragement, know that the clouds will break and the sun will shine. There will be a time when you will “praise Him” once again because the soul-despair you’re experiencing will not last forever. God will have the last word and it will be good!

Discouragement – common to us all – is neither unstoppable nor final. Dealing with it requires us to be honest with ourselves and God, look to God, and be encouraged. After the rain falls, the sun shines – it might not be right away, but we can count on it.

 

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“Let us not be weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow slack. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to the household of faith” (Gal. 6:9-10).

The basic idea of Galatians 6:6-10 is that we reap what we sow. We’re going to harvest what we plant – we can count on it. It’s a physical principle and also a spiritual principle.

Drawing on that idea, Paul says that we are to keep on doing good. If we do, then we’ll reap positive rewards.

However, Paul mentions two obstacles to doing good. First, “growing weary,” and second, “growing slack.” Growing weary means “to get tired, to become discouraged, and want to give up.” Growing slack means “to lose heart, to lose focus and concentration.”

By going fishing with my dad, I learned that a slack line is something you definitely don’t want. You want the line to be tight, because you’re more focused and concentrated on what’s going on. If your line is slack, you’re not even in the game (to mix a metaphor).

This applies to all of us who believe in Jesus Christ, whether we’re pastors, church leaders, church members, committee members; whether we’re young believers or mature. It applies to students and teachers, mothers and fathers, and everyone else. We’re all commanded to do good, but we all face the same obstacles – growing weary and growing slack.

Whatever we’re doing, and whatever our “position in life” (or in the body of Christ) might be, it’s not hard to get discouraged, to lose heart, or to lose focus. We do many of the same things over and over again. Sometimes, we wonder if what we’re doing has any real impact. At times, we may see our tasks as bean-counting, pushing paper, or simply busy work.

Even though things may appear this way from time to time (maybe a lot of the time), the reality is that they aren’t. God has placed us where we are through His sovereign providence, and we can do good if we do not grow weary or slack.

Paul encourages us to hang in there, to keep our focus, and continue to do good. When we do, God promises that we will be rewarded for it. That’s worth waiting for!

May God give us the strength and ability to continue to do good!

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In His good providence this last week, God encouraged me not to give up, lose heart, and be discouraged.

I’ve been out of the pastorate for 14 months and counting. So far, the search for my next pastoral ministry hasn’t turned up much. In fact, it’s been slow, very slow. It’s also been discouraging. I love teaching and don’t want to give it up, but I would also love to return to pastoral ministry in a church. If possible, I’d like to do both.

But the wait and the relative lack of opportunities (four interviews so far – two face-to-face and two by phone) have almost caused me to lose heart and give up on more than one occasion. The Lord knew that, of course, and used two different passages on different days to strengthen me.

At our Men’s Bible Study, I read 1 Samuel 27:1 which says, Then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. there is nothing better for me that I shoule escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.” David was weary of being chased by Saul, sick and tired of always having to look over his shoulder. In short, he was discouraged. The rest of 1 Samuel 27 is a cautionary tale of what happens when someone loses heart.

Then, at a gathering of the Spurgeon Fellowship at Western Seminary, Pastor Mike Jones of Independent Bible Church in Port Angeles, spoke on the subject of discouragment in ministry. (I’m seeing a pattern here!) One of the verses he read was 2 Corinthians 4:1Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” Paul had every reason imaginable to lose heart and be discouraged (read 4:8-12), but he didn’t give in to it. Why? Because he had an eternal perspective (read 4:16-18).

God brought theses verses and their emphasis – don’t be discouraged – to me because He knew I needed them. It’s possible that I was closer to the edge of despair than I thought and was in danger of falling off. It’s also possible that I’m not all that close to the edge, but needed to be reminded (and even warned) not to get any closer.

Is the Lord giving me encouragement for the long haul, which is going to be a lot longer than I hope? Is something going to happen soon? Is the Lord saying, “Don’t give up! It won’t be much longer”? I don’t know. I do know this, though, I’m encouraged and I praise God for it.

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