Hard Things 1: Discouragement

Set:

In this article, we will consider the struggle against discouragement, and disillusionment. Would you agree that the past few years have been difficult and trying? Have your jobs and relationships been under strain? What about the political and social “climate” of our nation? Are things going the way you had expected or hoped in your life? What things cause you to doubt that the future could ever be better?

Wise Words from the Past

Oswald Chambers ministered during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His wife faithfully transcribed his numerous sermons and lessons to his students and the soldiers before and during World War 1. Oswald died while serving in Egypt from complications from surgery. He provides valuable insights for the problems of our present age. I am including relevant quotes from select daily devotions. Emphasis is mine to highlight key concepts.

Facing Trials and Troubles That Make You Doubt God’s Character

The Clouds of Life

Do You See Jesus in Your Clouds?

“In the Bible clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith.”

These clouds often come upon us in our daily lives. It can be a difficult work/career situation. Maybe it’s a health or financial situation that just doesn’t improve. These “clouds” are like a fog that settles upon us and tempts us to trust in ourselves or something/someone else apart from God. Yet, we need to remember that God is always present (Omnipresent). Chambers explains:

“They are a sign that God is there. What a revelation it is to know that sorrow, bereavement, and suffering are actually the clouds that come along with God! God cannot come near us without clouds— He does not come in clear-shining brightness.”

God wants us to know Him and Know Him correctly. We have ideas and notions about God that don’t align up with the reality of Him. So God mercifully works to reveal these “false” or “wrong” notions. Do you believe that God owes us a good life with no problems or difficulties? Does God answer every prayer the way we desire? What if the only way that God can draw us closer to Himself is to cause us to daily depend on Him?

“It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials. Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child— a relationship simply between God and our own souls, and where other people are but shadows.”

God desires for us to develop a simple, trusting faith that depends on Him instead of our grand ideas about how life should or could be. Jesus reminds us that we must be like children to enter into His Kingdom.

Matthew 18:1-5 NKJV

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

Children in this context are coming to Christ. They want to be with Him, and they trust Him. They don’t come with pretense or false motives. They just want to be near Him. It’s a great mercy when God humbles us with defeats, difficulties, and troubles that make us look up to Him for strength, courage, and relief.

A Hard Truth

“There is a connection between the strange providential circumstances allowed by God and what we know of Him, and we have to learn to interpret the mysteries of life in the light of our knowledge of God. Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.”

We will observe and experience difficulties in life. Life is short and harsh. Things that happen seem to be random and cruel. Consider the numerous natural disasters that have occurred over the past months: the extreme heat, drought, wild fires, earthquakes, and floods in Kentucky.

Looking at the world around us, it’s hard to claim that God is good when there is so much suffering, loss, cruelty, and hatred. But, we can’t base our beliefs or thoughts about God from what we observe. We must base ourselves firmly upon His Living Word. God explains why life/creation is troubled in Genesis 3 and Romans 1-3. God is all-good, He is the Perfection of Goodness (Omnibenevolent).

Discouragement

Discouragement is the opposite of encouragement.

“The verb discourage has roots in the French word descouragier, which comes from des-, meaning “away,” and corage, or “courage.” So when you discourage someone, you can think of it as taking his courage — or enthusiasm — away.” google definition

John Piper addresses this issue of life briefly below:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/dont-let-discouragement-choke-you

In summary, discouragement is dangerous and we must fight against it. The best way to fight against these lies is to remember God’s Truths by daily meditating on them. I watch sermons and read articles to help me to keep perspective. Circumstances can twist our perception of reality as we endure career failures, unemployment, relationship failures, and burn-out.

The most dangerous season of discouragement arrives when the daily struggles continue for a long period of time with no relief in sight. Ever been in a situation that just gets worse with time? Nothing you try to do makes it better? As the stress, frustration, and anxiety increases you find yourself with even less ability or desire to handle things. This progresses to a state of being overwhelmed and eventually burn-out.

Steve Gallagher of Pure Ministries has an excellent article with biblical examples:

https://www.purelifeministries.org/blog/responding-to-despair-and-discouragement

Disillusionment and Discontent

“The Teaching of Disillusionment” July 30

“Disillusionment means having no more misconceptions, false impressions, and false judgments in life; it means being free from these deceptions. However, though no longer deceived, our experience of disillusionment may actually leave us cynical and overly critical in our judgment of others. But the disillusionment that comes from God brings us to the point where we see people as they really are, yet without any cynicism or any stinging and bitter criticism.

One of the worst consequences of the fall of humanity comes when others wound us from their own past “wounds.” Hurting people tend to hurt others. As someone who holds high ideals for how people should live and treat others, I have to remind myself that I am not the judge of others. God is the Righteous Judge. Only He can perceive every motive and intention of the human heart. We all have been disappointed and misused by others.

My temptation is to separate myself from others–to stay a “safe” distance away from others to avoid the inevitable disappointment(s) and hurts. This isn’t God’s Way. He commands that we love and forgive others regardless of how difficult it maybe personally. Considering all that God has graciously forgiven us, how can we come before Him with unforgiveness and bitterness stained on our hearts/souls?

Chambers identifies the roots of the problem:

1st “Many of the things in life that inflict the greatest injury, grief, or pain, stem from the fact that we suffer from illusions. We are not true to one another as facts, seeing each other as we really are; we are only true to our misconceived ideas of one another.”

2nd “Refusing to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering of human life. And this is how that suffering happens— if we love someone, but do not love God, we demand total perfection and righteousness from that person, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; yet we are demanding of a human being something which he or she cannot possibly give.”

We don’t see others as they really are and we demand from people what they can’t possibly give us! Are we seeing people as they really are? We are all lost, sinful people who desperately need God’s grace. How often are we critical of other people for doing something that we are doing too? It’s just more apparent when someone else is doing it!

Solutions
1. Only God can satisfy your heart

“There is only one Being who can completely satisfy to the absolute depth of the hurting human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Why do we look to others to do what only God can do? Do we forget that Holy Spirit is present in our lives to teach, convict, and guide us? What about God’s Living Word that He has graciously preserved throughout history to speak to His Truths to us?

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Even the person we love (the most) can’t perfectly love us in return. No human ever loves another perfectly. To love is to be vulnerable and that means being open to possibility that the other person won’t respond as expected or desired. The Only Perfect Love is found in Christ. Meaning and purpose are found in trusting and following Him. Relationship(s), career choice, and personal accomplishments can’t deeply satisfy the human heart. All is vain without Christ’s presence and sustaining faith. Things of this earth, even the good things are temporary at best. Eternity with Christ is the ultimate prize!

2.Follow Jesus’ Example: He Trusted God Not In Others

“Our Lord is so obviously uncompromising with regard to every human relationship because He knows that every relationship that is not based on faithfulness to Himself will end in disaster. Our Lord trusted no one, and never placed His faith in people, yet He was never suspicious or bitter.”

Be faithful to Christ! Follow His example and consider what His love means. His love meant living a perfect life, dying on the cross, and rising again to redeem His people! Jesus came as a servant to serve, not to be served. He is the King of the Universe, but was born in stable. Jesus didn’t lord His authority over others. He faithfully fulfilled His Father’s Redemptive Mission. Philippians 2 and 1 Corinthians 13 are instructive. We are called to be like Christ! The purpose of walking with Christ is so that as we grow and struggle we become more like Him and less like the fallen world around us.

3. Place your confidence in God’s Perfect Grace

“Our Lord’s confidence in God, and in what God’s grace could do for anyone, was so perfect that He never despaired, never giving up hope for any person. If our trust is placed in human beings, we will end up despairing of everyone.”

Since God doesn’t give up on us, then we shouldn’t give up on others or consider anyone beyond God’s grace. God’s grace is sufficient for all of our needs. To receive grace from God means that we are to live with grace overflowing from our lives to others. Paul speaks of this vital truth in numerous passages. Those who believe and trust in Christ never walk alone or in the darkness. He is Faithful and True, never forsaking those He has redeemed.

Despair and discouragement seek to draw our attention to our circumstances and present difficulties instead of looking above to Christ and His Kingdom. I write these words with concern and hope for everyone who is facing difficulties. You’re not alone! May God’s Word and Truth strengthen and encourage you! For His glory and honor, I write these words:

Published by leestanfill@yahoo.com

Just a pilgrim walking each day with Jesus and hoping to encourage others along the path.

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