It's been a bit.
I took the first two and a half months of 2021 to recharge, rethink and rejuvenate. I'll be honest, I was feeling a tad discouraged at the beginning of the year. Ok, what's a skosh more than a tad? Whatever that amount is, I was that much discouraged.
I was discouraged by the election results.
I was discouraged by pandemic life.
I was discouraged by a lack of growth in blog subscribers after 10 years of writing (but 3 new subscribers this week...WELCOME and thank you from the bottom of my very grateful heart)
I was discouraged by winter.
I was discouraged by insecurity in my new promotion at work.
I was discouraged by 10, (eh,15) extra pounds of winter weight.
I was discouraged by discouragement and my heart was in trouble.
One day in mid-February in the height of my funk I came across a quote that William Ward wrote: "Discouragement is dissatisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust of the future. It is ingratitude for the blessings of yesterday, indifference to the opportunities of today, and insecurity regarding strength for tomorrow. It is unawareness of the presence of beauty, unconcern for the needs of our fellowman, and unbelief in the promises of old. It is impatience with time, immaturity of thought, and impoliteness to God."
Well, heck. How's that for a poke in the eye? I fit that description to a tee.
Dissatisfaction, distaste, distrust? Check.
Ingratitude, indifference, insecurity? Check.
Unaware, unconcern, unbelief? Check.
Impatient, immature, and impolite. Yeah, check again.
I was stuck, and caught. Abruptly convicted, I simply whispered, "well, now what?"
There are times in life when we must move from "Now what?" to "Now God!" I knew I was in a funk that now God would have to work through.
Why do we allow discouragement to convince us that we are the only ones God doesn't hear, doesn't see, and doesn't care about. Why doesn't he keep us from hard times that can rob our joy and bring us to our knees? Over and over and over again in the bible, God saves! So why do we doubt he will again?
I was listening to a program recently in which a pastor used the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace as an illustration of how God saves us IN a situation, not FROM a situation. That got me thinking, does he always do that? Well, let's look...
God supplied the ram to Abraham while he was IN the act of killing his son Issac...
God saved Noah IN the flood, not FROM the flood...
God saved Daniel IN the lion's den, not FROM the lion's den...
God helped David IN the battle with Goliath, not FROM the battle with Goliath...
God promoted Joseph while he was IN captivity, He did not keep him FROM captivity...
God parted the Red Sea after the Israelites stepped INto the water...
God sustained Jesus IN the desert, he didn't keep him from the desert...
God resurrected Jesus IN the grave, he didn't save him FROM death...
He tells us 365 times in His Word, "Do not fear", "Don't be afraid", "Let not your heart be troubled". Jesus said it plainly and clearly. But how?
The key to overcoming discouragement or a troubled heart is to remember God’s promises and apply them. After completing His public ministry in Jerusalem , Jesus has washed the feet of the disciples, predicted His own betrayal, and foreseen Peter's denial. Surely, after sharing these three significant moments, the apostles were confused and most likely dismayed.
John chapter 14 begins a series of remarks meant to encourage the disciples, in the face of dire warnings. Among these are reminders that Jesus is planning to bring them to be where He is, assurance that He is ''the way,'' and the first explicit promises of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus refers to this as the Spirit of Truth, and promises that the Spirit will arrive to help the disciples carry on after Jesus is ascended to heaven. As in prior statements, Jesus is focused on comfort and encouragement.
“I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid." John 14:27
There are 8,810 promises in the bible given to us by God and Jesus. Christ reassures His followers that faith in Him is faith in God. To know Christ is to know ''the way, and the truth, and the life'' (John 14:6). The words, actions, and miracles of Jesus should give Christians confidence to trust that He will make good on His promises. When we trust God's promises, we don't have to live troubled, dismayed or discouraged because we have evidence that God is faithful IN our most difficult moments.
When we look to happenings in the world, instead of holiness in Christ we lose sight and awareness of the Holy Spirit. Satan wants us out of sync with the Holy Spirit so he can do his work of discouraging us and lying to us that all is not well. He wants us looking to our circumstances, our situations and yes, our scales so he can create dissatisfaction, distaste, distrust. Ingratitude, indifference, and insecurity. Unawareness, unconcern, and unbelief. Impatience, immaturity, and impoliteness.
Jesus had no fortune to bequeath His followers, but He gives gifts that can't be bought - the presence of the Holy Spirit and the presence of peace. These gifts do not grant us exemption from the storms of life, but promise us the power and the peace IN any storm.
The gifts Holy Spirit provides us with are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is in those gifts that we receive the blessed assurance that Christ is with us and in us and all is well. How many defeated lives would buy the power of the Holy Spirit if they could? How many distraught souls would buy the peace of Jesus? These can't be bought, but Jesus gives them as gifts to His people.
Yes, I get discouraged. I know you do as well. But we are not to live as panicked people in fear and anxiety. We are to take heart because Jesus overcame the world and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can too. Just pick one of those 8,810 promises and go get 'em. And if you need to, call me, I'm a great cheerleader.