Sunday, September 18, 2011

When You Are Discouraged

It is this evening when my mind thinks on the apostle John when he was exiled on the Isle of Patmos. On this Sabbath, my heart has not resembled his, in the spirit, to receive such a marvelous revelation from God of Christ's kingdom. How long had he been in exile, alone among thieves and murderers? How often had he been hungry? Sick? And yet, he was in the spirit.

I sit ashamed, after not even a whole calendar week, six days, my soul having already sunk to a state so opposite his heaven-bent one.

Since Tuesday, all three of my children have been sick, a 24 hour lag time between the start of each child's fever. By Thursday night, my oldest was back bouncing and consuming his weight in food, what looked to be a simple 48 hour virus. Even with my youngest son, it appeared the illness was following the same pattern.

On Friday, in the midst of this trial, I was still ok, still thanking God for fevers dropping, for only one child needing a lap at one time. Our family missed Wednesday night corporate worship, Thursday morning prayer walking. It was disappointment, but my soul was still focused upward instead of inward.

Then, I allowed myself to hope we would make it to Sunday worship today, something I realized last night wasn't going to happen. My daughter just wasn't able to shake her fever and youngest son continued to complain of his throat hurting.

That's when it happened, when I failed to take my thoughts captive and give thanks for His higher plans overriding my plans. In that instance when disappointment overwhelmed, discouragement crept beneath my door, curled at my feet, and struck my heart, rendering this ungrateful one powerless, useless.

It's easy to grow discouraged...especially when an overwhelming circumstance writes CANCELLED in bold atop an entire week's schedule. But whether that discouragement comes in the form of an illness, the weather, a bad economy, or another person, we Christians must know we are not alone in facing opposition.

We must remember that "Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). We must recall that this same Satan strolls up to the Father's throne, asking "to sift you as wheat" (Lk. 22:31).

We must know that others before us have felt discouragement as well. Like us, they had to be reminded where their focus should be.

In the prophet Ezra's time, in excess of 42,000 Israelites returned from captivity in Babylon to their beloved Jerusalem. Their first big order of business? Rebuilding the temple: "In the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem in the second month," they began to rebuild the temple. (Ez. 3:8). After finishing the foundation, though, the opposition started.

Ezra writes, "Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building and hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia" (Ez. 4:4-5).

The King James version translates the word "discouraged" as "weakened": "Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah" (Ez. 4:4).

Fear. Bad counsel. Local Samaritans wanting to help build and then likely acting out in anger when rejected. And eventually tattletale counselors who lied to King Artaxerxes so that the king ordered their work to stop....something history doesn't show the Israelites contesting in the slightest.

The discouragement, the weakening worked: "Then the work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased, and it was stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia (Ez. 4:24).

Subtract the dates, and that's fourteen, maybe fifteen, years of looking at a foundation each time they passed the site where the temple should be. Fourteen years of letting discouragement reign their lives versus trusting in God to see His plans fulfilled!

Only when God sent two prophets--Haggai and Zechariah--to start "supporting" the people did they come out of their shell of fear and discouragement, this time choosing to look up and trust in God even when the discouraging, tattletale counselors started trying to thwart the building project again (Ez. 5:2).

The prophets didn't do or say anything magical, mysterious. No fire coming down from heaven and consuming an altar. No manna left on the morning doorstep. Instead, they simply reminded the people of who God is:

"Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: 'I am with you,” declares the LORD'" (Hag. 1:13).

"' Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty" (Hag. 2:4).

I. AM.

These once discouraged people simply had to remember The I Am was watching over them.

Fourteen years earlier, Ezra had called these I AM-strengthened people , "discouraged " (Ez. 4:4). The King James version called them "weakened."

The word raphah translated as "weakened" or "discouraged" here in Ezra is the same Hebrew word translated in the Psalms as "still" in the infamous verse, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10).

Consider the verse's application when inserting Ezra's other two translations of raphah:

Be discouraged and know that I am God.
Be weakened and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.

When I am disheartened with the world, when I sink down to my knees and recognize how feeble, how weak I truly am--it is then that I have two choices. I can focus on me and roll around like a pig in my disappointments. Or I can be still, let that moment, those feelings of insufficiency, point me to the power and person of I Am.

Resource: Blue Letter Bible.

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer - It is really all about where we gaze isn't it - inward, outward, or upward. Thanks for this - such encouragement this morning.