This isn’t a super hot topic in the Church today and it’s even less talked about in ministry circles. As a church leader, we are expected to “be the example” for the people. I’ve heard pastors preach, “Don’t come in here with your downcast face. That’s not the Christian life we want to present to non-believers!” So we put on the “shiny happy people” mask and do well at faking it.
But reality is that sometimes life just stinks. Things don’t always go as we plan and our Christian life isn’t always a constant spiraling up toward God. If fact, if you are a faithful follower of Jesus, YOU WILL experience times of discouragement. There is no example in the Bible of anyone who never suffered for Christ in some way. I think sometimes our unwillingness to embrace the suffering actually keeps us from precious encounters with the Father.
So what are we so afraid of? Is God any less victorious even if we aren’t? I’ve read recently in 1 and 2 Samuel the accounts of King David. He experienced some pretty extreme highs and lows during the course of his life. For sure, his story is not an example of spiraling up toward God.
As you read the account, here’s how it progresses: he goes from shepherd boy, to giant killer, to Israel’s superstar, to running for his life from Saul, to becoming King, to fighting and killing everyone who wasn’t an Israelite, to dancing naked, to killing Uriah and taking his wife, to losing his son, to uniting Israel, to running for his life from his son, to causing the deaths of 70,000 Israelites, to dying.
And this was a man who the Bible says “was after God’s own heart”.
King David is not an anomaly. Most every major Bible personality experienced periods of disappointment and hardship, most of which would make our problems seem a bit trivial. The interesting point is that the Bible writers decided not to gloss over these hardships, but to show them in all their ugliness. Perhaps this is somewhat cultural. I believe westerners tend to be more “positive thinkers” with a “you can do anything” mentality.
I love the website www.despair.com. They create “demotivators”, which are a tongue-in-cheek slam on those motivational posters featuring a whale or an eagle soaring. Here’s a description that I pulled from their site:
AT DESPAIR, INC., we believe motivational products create unrealistic expectations, raising hopes only to dash them. That’s why we created our soul-crushingly depressing Demotivators® designs, so you can skip the delusions that motivational products induce and head straight for the disappointments that follow!
Maybe I’ve got a cocked sense of humor (probably!), but I love the honesty!
Seriously, we have to face up to the fact that things don’t always turn out just the way we want. And when we are in those places during our lives and ministries, we need to be able to talk honestly about it. God can handle it, we think others can’t.
As soon as we face up to the fact that we all struggle at times, the sooner we can help one another along. Satan wants nothing more than to keep us self-focused, thinking that our struggles are unique and that we will never overcome them.
In C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, the elder demon advises the younger demon to keep his man focused on himself and his present circumstances. And to not let him think about more eternal things. When we focus too much on our current situation, it’s hard to see beyond the trial. God gently lifts our heads and shows us the bigger picture of His kingdom.
Hebrews 10:19-25 gives us great encouragement. The title of this chapter in my Bible is “A Call to Perseverance”. If you are in a season of disappointment, you should turn there now and read it. The writer reminds us that our faith is in God, not ourselves. We should draw near to him.
And finally he writes, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (My emphasis added).
So whatever you’re dealing with now that has knocked the wind out of you, don’t give up! God has not given up on you. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”