Let’s face it, we won’t be leaving this earth without experiencing some kind of discouragement…some of us have a little easier time moving out of it than others. My battles of discouragement have included things like not seeing enough results in my music career and ministry to… worry over my kids and their walk with God. I’ve been discouraged in not seeing people healed after praying with faith and hope, friends’ marriages ending in divorce, and people I care about not be able to receive forgiveness of sins because of offended hearts. I read or hear in the news everyday of too many school shootings, terror attacks and corrupt government – it definitely can be overwhelmingly discouraging!
If we are left alone to our own isolated pity parties of discouragement, it is without question a fertile ground for deception…as our pastor of many years is known to say “Isolation breeds deception”. In our discouragement, if left alone to ourselves, we become consumed with our feelings of pain and anger as well. Anger at God for not answering our prayers the way He should have. Anger at people for not making right choices. Mostly, anger at ourselves for overreacting when we know we shouldn’t have. To make it worse, when we are in this place, the last thing we want is for someone to actually speak the truth. That just makes us more mad. But the truth is, if we don’t open our ears and hearts to receive, we will continue to spiral until our discouraged heart becomes bitter. I could quote many scriptures here but I think we know when God’s Truth is speaking – it’s not an opinion – it’s just the way things work whether or not we agree.
I am thankful for my husband who often will tell me what I don’t want to hear when I don’t want to hear it but when I need to- right in the depth of discouragement. Actually, I am also gifted in that arena for his benefit. Maybe some of you are blessed with a spouse like that. I know when he is saying the truth but my pride wants to keep being right in my pain and discouragement. Can I get a witness? Anyone else ever experience that? Sometimes it may be a mom or a dad, a good friend who speaks truth into your life even though you may not like to hear what they have to say.
Here’s the bottom line of what I ALWAYS need to be reminded of: The root of discouragement is un-thankfulness, un-gratefulness for what is good, lovely, pure, virtuous and just. It is a wrong focus – like a camera, what we focus on develops in our life. The amazing thing is that God gave us choice over where we point the camera. Discouragement comes when we choose (yes, CHOOSE) to put our focus on all the challenges and past negative results (really all about me and my problems) instead of putting our eyes on God and being a source of EN-couragement to other people. Think about that word, encourage – it’s really about the word “courage”…the courage to choose life in the midst of experiencing death all around, the courage to give hope to those who feel hopeless, the courage to say ‘no’ to our self pity-parties. If not, we are left to our own suffering.
Suffering for something worthwhile like the hundreds of thousands of martyrs who have died for the sake of their faith is noble and worthy. Suffering because of our own pride and refusal to look up and count the good, is just selfishness. However, even in the midst of our unthankful moments, God gives us an opportunity and as always, a choice. I read something so powerful in a book that is changing my life called “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller, and here is what he writes, “Suffering is God’s gift to make us aware of our contingent existence. It creates an environment where we see the true nature of our existence – dependent on the living God.” And so we could say even in our discouragement that things aren’t the way they could be, it is a gift or an opportunity to choose life and to choose our dependence on a living God who is waiting for us to cry out for encouragement.
My husband encouraged me with something this morning that I have been meditating on all day…he said, “when a fledgling team wins the championship game, no one except the coaches saw the challenges during the whole season with the team. No one sees the struggles with bad attitudes, emotions, and disappointments. When the team wins, everyone gives honor to the coach and the ability/gift to take a fledgling group of individuals and make them into a championship team. In the same way, God gives us an opportunity as parents and in every area of our lives to be a great coach. Lisa, be a coach instead of someone in the stands constantly evaluating what could have or should have been done differently.”
Wow, I think I will ‘selah’ on that one.