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Posts tagged ‘discouragement’

Finding Hope in the Midst of Failure

SOURCE:  Taken from a book by Ed Hindson

The first key to growing through failure is realizing that God is greater than your mistakes.

Second, failure is a universal part of being human.

God wants us to learn from failure. We especially need to learn how not to make the same mistake again. We need to face our weaknesses. Whatever can be changed needs to be changed; wherever we can improve, we need to improve.

If you cannot succeed in a certain area of life, it may very well be that it’s not the will of God for you to pursue that area. You might love to play football, but if the doors aren’t opening for you to play professionally, then most likely that’s not God’s calling for your life. You may enjoy singing, but perhaps your voice isn’t of the quality that’s necessary to be a recording artist. If you aren’t achieving the goals you’d like to reach, that doesn’t mean you need to feel like a failure. It just means that God intends for you to succeed elsewhere.

Don’t let some initial failure cause you to go away discouraged, angry, and upset, or you will never accomplish what you could have had you just kept trying.

What Is Your Definition of Success?

In order to address the problem of failure, we have to start with a question about success. Does God really want us to be successful? There are some pious believers who say, “Oh, the Lord really doesn’t intend for us to be successful. We can be failures to the glory of God. The more everything goes wrong, the more spiritual we can become.” Then there are those who are bent on success at any cost. Their attitude is, “Do whatever you have to do to succeed, whether it’s biblical or not. After all,” they rationalize, “God wants us to be successful. He doesn’t need any more failures.”

But how does God’s Word define success?

Read Joshua 1:8: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” By this definition, success is doing the will of God. We may think that certain things we do will make God happy with us, but that’s not the way it works. Everything we do for God needs to be done according to the Word of God in order for it to be done in the will of God.

By some standards, Abraham was a total failure. Leaving Ur, the greatest city of his day, he went out to the middle of nowhere to the land of Canaan and there lived and died in obscurity. Yet he is one of the most illustrious men who ever lived. Moses led the slaves of Israel out of Egypt into a wilderness and never entered the Promised Land. He died a failure by modern standards, yet he is one of the greatest men God ever used. Christ died on a cross, initially appearing to be a failure, and yet by His death He won us an eternal victory. For in that death, He atoned for the sins of mankind.

Jesus talked about failure and success in the story of the successful Pharisee and the sinful publican, both of whom went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:9–14). The Pharisee’s prayer was boastful—unlike others, he had never let God down. By contrast, the publican stood afar off and bowed his head in humility and prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Commenting on this incident, Jesus said, “I tell you that this man [publican] rather than the other [Pharisee], went home justified before God.” The man who appeared to be successful was a spiritual failure. The one who appeared to be a failure was the one who was truly successful. Humility, not ability, is the only true success before God.

When people fail, they usually do one of two things.

Either they confess their failure, repent of it, and get right with God, or they go around making excuses for their failure. Those who confess get back on track and ultimately turn their failure into success. The latter never honestly face their failure. They never solve the problems that led to it, and their lives never get turned around. God wants us not only to repent and erase our failure; He wants us to go on and find real success in serving Him.

The Failure Factor

Understanding Failure Orientation
Failure orientation is that self-perception found in some people that limits not only their self-confidence, but even their ability to trust God as all-sufficient Lord. Individuals with a failure orientation are haunted by a sense of failure, which comes from one of two sources:

1. How we think we appear to others. If we are prone to a failure orientation, we tend to develop “ears” for negative feedback from others. Blocking out or downplaying positive feedback, the failure orientation makes us morbidly sensitive to any negative response we’re getting from others. Unfortunately, we tend to limit the feedback we receive—thereby limiting whatever useful information we might glean from the comments of others. We need feedback from others to help us develop the foundation stones of our value system, self-concept, and understanding of behavior.

Sometimes individuals with a failure orientation have trouble distinguishing between negative feedback directed at them personally and negative feedback simply directed at their behavior. It is important to be able to distinguish between the two in interpreting feedback. “Failure” that may come in the form of a negative response to one’s behavior is usually short-lived and may be overcome. Such “failure” should not be mistaken for a negative response to one’s own person or self-integrity.

As Christians, we may fail, but we are not failures. No matter what others choose to think of us, we are “more than conquerors” through Jesus Christ, who loves us (see Romans 8:37). From time to time, others may praise or ridicule us, but we must never lose our true identity and sense of purpose in the quicksand of struggling to prove ourselves acceptable to others. Scripture describes clearly how we should envision our efforts as we strive to achieve our goals in this life: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.… It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23–24 NASB).

2. How we view ourselves. Frequently, people with a failure orientation have an artificially high, unrealistic, or even perfectionistic set of expectations for themselves. When asked to rate their accomplishments in almost any area on a scale from one to ten, such persons inevitably rate themselves at five or worse. They rate themselves harshly, even when by all objective standards their performance is far above average. These individuals tend to categorically classify themselves as total successes or total failures. They have an “either-or” mentality when viewing their own accomplishments. They see their output as fully acceptable or totally worthless—more often the latter.

Such a sense of failure often paralyzes initiative. These individuals become cautious, diffident, unwilling to take risks their own judgment tells them are perfectly acceptable. Such persons need a comparison group of other individuals who are at a roughly equivalent skill and attribute level with whom they can identify and derive a sense of belonging without either being intimidated or bored.

Overcoming Failure Orientation
How can we overcome failure orientation? Here are some suggestions:

1. Fully analyze and understand our own failure-prone thinking. Analyzing the negative thinking and feelings of failure within us can help in identifying the various areas or aspects of life in which they appear. We need to try to delineate these areas as specifically as possible and look for hidden irrational ideas or unbiblical beliefs that serve to undermine our sense of God-given worth.

Usually, we can trace our failure orientation back to various setbacks and misconceptions coming from ideas about ourselves, our friends, job, parents, brothers and sisters, church, or school. Rather than perceiving the world through our mind’s “failure filter,” we need to analyze and approach situations from a biblical perspective. One way to do this is to write down every irrational or unbiblical idea we can pinpoint in our thoughts. Then match it with a passage of Scripture that refutes it.

2. Choose goals and objectives that will improve our self-concept. It is advisable to begin with an area in which we have a reasonable amount of self-confidence. A success-oriented self-concept is contagious within our own personality. When we are able to establish goals and begin to reach them, the belief that “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me” begins to take on genuine reality in our own experience. From one area of success, this attitude of confident capability will snowball into other personal and professional areas of our lives.

3. Break the objectives down into bite-sized components. Once we have begun to take on an objective, it is necessary to approach that goal through a series of small steps. No one can jump from the ground onto the roof of a house, but ten or 12 small steps on a ladder will enable us to get there. By breaking the goal down into a series of smaller bite-sized behaviors and objectives, we simplify our task and heighten our chances for success. These smaller objectives should be undertaken in logical sequence, moving from shortest to longest or easiest to hardest. Here, the wise and thoughtful counsel of a spiritually mature person is invaluable, whether we need advice or just encouragement.

4. Implement a plan of action. This is the trial-and-error step. It will involve developing persistence above all else. It will involve the discipline to be well prepared for a task, and sensitivity to remain teachable and flexible. A change in a personal failure orientation of a longstanding nature won’t happen overnight. Many times, in fact, we will find ourselves taking two steps forward and one step back, but time is on our side, and the outcome is guaranteed. We can be confident, that “he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Turn Your Failure into Success
Many people never overcome their failures because they never really forgive themselves for failing. They continue to punish themselves with self-inflicted guilt rather than moving beyond failure to success.

1. To fail is to be human. All human beings fail. God is fully aware of our limitations: “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14 NKJV). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). True success is not avoiding failure, but learning what to do with it.

2. To fail is not be a failure. Studies show that the most successful people often fail. For example, Babe Ruth not only set the record in his day for home runs in a single baseball season—he led the league in strikeouts, as well. However, that didn’t make him a failure. Many Christians who have achieved a number of successes are quick to call themselves failures when they suffer a few strikeouts in life.

3. No one is ever a failure until he stops trying. It is better to attempt much and occasionally fail than to attempt nothing and achieve it. No one learns the limits of his ability until he has reached the point of total failure. Thomas Edison tried over 5,000 different types of light-bulb filaments without success before finding one that would work. His willingness to endure many failures without branding himself a failure gave us the electric light.

4. Failure is never final as long as we get up one more time than we fall down. Fear is much more damaging than failure. If you’ve failed, admit it and start over. Forgive yourself and learn to forgive others. Don’t be controlled by what has happened to you, but rather be motivated by where you are trying to go. Focus on your goals, not your failures. Move ahead with determination, for nothing worthwhile is accomplished without some risk. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV). God has given you certain gifts and abilities to serve Him. You may not be able to do everything, but you can do something. Go and do it to His glory!

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Hindson, E. E. (1999). God is There in the Tough Times (62–68). Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers.

Spiritual Discouragement

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch

Discouragement can result from different scenarios, but Satan is the instigator. He will do anything he can to dishearten us and keep our focus on negative things instead of on God.

A subtle form of spiritual discouragement is the idea that we cannot please God. This is a trap of the Devil, and too many Christians are ensnared by it. If we were to write down everything we thought we must do to please God, how long would that list be before it was complete? We would assume we should read the Bible more, pray more, give more, and witness more. We could probably fill up both sides of the paper. Then we would look at our list and realize it’s impossible to accomplish all of it.

That’s the trap.

What pleases the Lord is our obedience, not our adherence to a long checklist of duties.

Unanswered prayer is another source of discouragement.

When we present a request to the Lord, He does not necessarily answer in the manner or timing that would be our preference. When that is the case, we will far too often allow discouragement to creep in, and from there, we might decide to give up on prayer.

Focusing on the Lord is essential for breaking the chains of discouragement.

When you turn to God, it is also helpful to pray three things aloud:

  • First, thank Him for being with you while you feel disheartened.
  • Second, admit He is in control of your life.
  • And third, acknowledge that He is good and will ultimately work the circumstances for your benefit.

Do You Want To Be Healed

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors [AACC]

38 years in a bed. Next to a pool. Sounds relaxing doesn’t it?

But as we read on, the story says the man was alone and horribly crippled. Probably twisted feet, pencil thin legs and atrophied muscles barely covered by a thin blanket. Why? Because this was the pool of Bethesda near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. There was something miraculous about this pool. Periodically the water stirred, and the first one into it was instantly healed.

Suddenly a commotion just inside the gate caused everyone to turn and look.

A Man, followed by a large crowd, walked through one of five alcoves. With humble determination, He moved to the crippled man’s side. Whispers fill the air. “Is it Him?” some ask. Every ear strains to hear what He might say as He kneels tenderly next to the man. And then, with a quiet strong voice full of power and grace, He asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

The broken man feebly hangs his head and utters an interesting reply, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” His answer only goes to affirm the depths of his hopelessness. Not “yes” or even “no”. Just discouragement and despair…

Even more interesting is the edict He gives in response. “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (John 5:1-9 MSG)

Jesus asked him — Do you want to be healed?

Each of us, at some point in our lives, have heard Him ask us the same question. Whether it’s physically… emotionally… relationally… or spiritually. Too often, we answer with the same timidity he did. Our pain is too deep. The hurt has been lodged in our heart for way too long. The doctors have tried everything. Hopelessness fills our souls…

When you really think about it, healing starts with a choice. And it is always for His glory.

Meditate on these words. Treasure them up and ponder them in your heart:

“But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

“O LORD, my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Psalm 30:2 ESV)

“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14 ESV)

“And many followed Him. And He healed them all.” (Matthew 12:15 ESV)

“He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

“Do you want to be healed?”   The next time He asks you that heartfelt question, reflect on these verses before you answer.

And yes, He is always waiting and willing to turn our lives around.

Do you want to be healed?

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

[John 5:1-9]

38 years in a bed.

Next to a pool.

Sounds relaxing doesn’t it?

But as we read on, the story says the man was alone and horribly crippled. Probably twisted feet, pencil thin legs and atrophied muscles barely covered by a thin blanket. Why? Because this was the pool of Bethesda near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. There was something miraculous about this pool. Periodically the water stirred, and the first one into it was instantly healed.

Suddenly a commotion just inside the gate caused everyone to turn and look. A Man, followed by a large crowd, walked through one of five alcoves. With humble determination, He moved to the crippled man’s side. Whispers fill the air. “Is it Him?” some ask.

Every ear strains to hear what He might say as He kneels tenderly next to the man. And then, with a quiet strong voice full of power and grace, He asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

The broken man feebly hangs his head and utters an interesting reply, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” His answer only goes to affirm the depths of his hopelessness. Not “yes” or even “no”. Just discouragement and despair…

Even more interesting is the edict He gives in response. “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (John 5:1-9 MSG)

Jesus asked him — Do you want to be healed?

Each of us, at some point in our lives, have heard Him ask us the same question. Whether it’s physically… emotionally… relationally… or spiritually.

Too often, we answer with the same timidity he did. Our pain is too deep. The hurt has been lodged in our heart for way too long. The doctors have tried everything. Hopelessness fills our souls…

When you really think about it, healing starts with a choice. And it is always for His glory.

Meditate on these words. Treasure them up and ponder them in your heart:

“But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

“O LORD, my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Psalm 30:2 ESV)

“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14 ESV)

“And many followed Him. And He healed them all.” (Matthew 12:15 ESV)

“He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

“Do you want to be healed?”

The next time He asks you that heartfelt question, reflect on these verses before you answer.

And yes, He is always waiting and willing to turn our lives around.

Just When I Think God Isn’t There — HE IS !!

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

A Low Whisper

Instead of concentrating on your problems and getting discouraged, focus on God and meditate on His promises for you. You may have fallen down, but you don’t have to stay down. God is ready, willing and able to pick you up. — Joyce Meyers

If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows, then we must starve eternally. -C. S. Lewis

Highs and lows.

One minute we experience a victorious spiritual breakthrough and are on the top of the world.

The next minute the raw realities of life assault the very core of our faith.

As if that isn’t enough, the evil one loves to then whisper in our ears… “What a loser”… “You really can’t do anything right can you?”… “God isn’t listening”… “You will never be used”… “You’d better run for your life”… “God isn’t really there for you”…

And too often we believe him.

Elijah understood this.

Under the rule of King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, the children of Israel had turned their back on God and worshipped Baal. In a bold attempt to turn the people’s hearts back to God, Elijah calls the prophets of Baal to a contest. A sacrifice was prepared and Elijah challenges, “And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:24 ESV)

The deceived prophets cried out to Baal all day and no fire fell. Elijah then takes his turn. He prays to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel…then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, and when all of the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord He is God; the Lord He is God.’” (18:36-39 ESV)

Elijah experiences a stunning victory.

A short six verses later, Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah “by this time tomorrow” (19:2 ESV). Then “he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life.” (19:3 ESV) Elijah sits down under a tree and asks to die – “O Lord, take away my life…” (19:4 ESV) and then falls asleep.

His triumph turned to discouragement – discouragement to depression – and depression to despair. What a turn of events

A quick scan of Elijah’s predicament can be best understood as the HALT syndrome. He found himself:

Hungry… he physically stopped eating

Angry… mad at God

Lonely… traveling in the journey alone

Tired… collapsed into sleep

Just when we think God isn’t there — that He has abandoned us – that the whole world would be better off without us – God is ready to meet us at each point of need.

Consider what happens next – – – An angel of the Lord wakes him up, and gives Elijah this simple instruction – “Arise and eat.” Elijah looked and there was “a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he “arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” (19:5-8 ESV)

If you’re in a pit, it just might be that you need real food and sleep.

Then notice vs. 12 – God lovingly reaches out to His servant. He doesn’t leave him hopeless – He speaks in the “sound of a low whisper”, reassuring him of his presence, power and provision.

The all-powerful God is also intensely personal.

In times of despair we must slow the process and lean into his voice — listening and obeying as He conforms our will to His.

God may perform great miracles; more often, however, He is quietly at work in the hearts and souls of His people, speaking words of truth and comfort.

Listen and follow Him.

It will turn your life around.

Five (5) Ways to Stop Discouragement from Getting the Best of You

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Discouragement and disappointment are normal emotions we all experience, even as Christians.

Peter felt discouraged with himself when he realized that he wasn’t as courageous as he thought he was, even though Jesus had warned him that he would deny him before the rooster crowed (Matthew 26:31 and 74,75). We too can feel discouraged and even depressed when we fail to live up to our own or other’s expectations.

Job felt discouraged and frustrated with his wife and friends. They didn’t get it. Trying to be helpful, they only heaped more shame and blame on Job for his afflictions. We also can feel let down by our friends and family. They don’t understand what we’re going through or don’t offer to help as we wish they would. (Read through the biblical book of Job for the story.)

We can get discouraged with life’s circumstances. Things don’t always turn out the way we’d hoped despite our persistent prayers. Elijah hoped that, after all the miracles the Israelites saw performed on Mount Carmel, they would finally repent and put God first, but they did not. King Ahab and Jezebel were as stubborn and hard hearted as always and Elijah felt discouraged, exhausted and believed his entire ministry was a waste (1 Kings 19).

Jeremiah felt angry and discouraged with God, when he believed God was against him, and temporarily lost hope in God (Lamentations 3). The disciples too felt discouraged after Jesus was crucified, before he rose from the dead. They said “We were hoping that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21) They couldn’t see the bigger picture and felt that their life’s work was a waste.

Discouragement happens, even to the strongest and best of people. Here are five (5) things you can do when you start to feel the black cloud of discouragement swallow you up.

1.  Be honest.  It does you no good to pretend you don’t feel what you feel. You can’t take action against a negative feeling until you first admit you have it. A strong Christian is not someone who never experiences negative feelings. It’s someone who has learned what to do with them when he or she has them and how to process them biblically.

2.  Take care of your body.  If your body isn’t working, your mind, emotions and will are also weakened. I love how God tended to Elijah’s body first, before addressing anything else, and provided ravens to feed him. Sometimes the circumstances of life drain us dry and we need to press pause, stop doing, and simply rest and refresh.

3.  Pay attention to your thought life.  Maturing as believers means we learn to think truthfully (Philippians 4:8) and to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)

All of us attempt to make sense of the things that happen in our lives. We try to figure out why they happen and what it all means. It’s crucial that we pay attention to what stories we are telling ourselves about ourselves, about others, about God, or about a particular situation and whether or not those stories are actually true. For example, if you look at what Elijah was telling himself after he became discouraged, much of it was not true. Yet, because he thought it, it added to his misery (read 1 Kings 19).

Jeremiah was also telling himself things about God that were not true, but because his mind believed his version of reality instead of God’s, he lost his hope. Read through Lamentations 3. Notice in verse 21 that Jeremiah begins to have a change of mind and heart. He says, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.” When his thoughts changed, his negative emotions also lifted even though his circumstances stayed the same.

4.  Train yourself to “see” life out of two lenses at the same time.  When the apostle Paul counsels us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2), he is telling us that our mind needs to be trained to think differently than we have in the past. Part of this training is to learn to see both the temporal (life is hard) and the eternal (God has a purpose here) at the same time.

Paul speaks honestly of his temporal pain when he says he is hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. Yet, he did not become crushed, despairing, abandoned or destroyed. Why not? Because he learned to firmly fix the eternal perspective on his spiritual eyes. He says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:8-18).

Paul never minimized the pain of the temporal, yet discouragement didn’t win because he knew that God’s purposes were at work. (See Philippians 1:12-14 for another example.)

5.  Press close into God.  The truth is life is hard, people do disappoint and hurt us and we don’t always understand God or his ways. The prophet Naham talks about a day of trouble and reminds us “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, he knows those who trust in him” (Naham 1:7). If we’re not in close trusting relationship with God, life’s troubles can become unbearable. The psalmist cried out, “I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see God in the land of the living” (Psalm 27).

One final tip:  The best way to chase out a negative feeling is with another feeling. The Bible teaches us “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Gratitude is a powerful antidote for discouragement. We may not be able to give God thanks for the difficult situation that we find ourselves in, but we can learn to look for things we can be thankful for in the midst of it.

Whose “Whisper” Are You Listening To?

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

The Sound of a Low Whisper

Instead of concentrating on your problems and getting discouraged, focus on God and meditate on His promises for you. You may have fallen down, but you don’t have to stay down. God is ready, willing and able to pick you up. -Joyce Meyers

If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows, then we must starve eternally. -C. S. Lewis

Highs and lows.

One minute we experience a victorious spiritual breakthrough and are on the top of the world.

The next minute the raw realities of life assault the very core of our faith.

As if that isn’t enough the evil one loves to then whisper in our ears… “What a loser”… “You really can’t do anything right can you?”… “God isn’t listening”… “You will never be used”… “You’d better run for your life”… “God isn’t really there for you”…

And too often we believe him.

Elijah understood this. Under the rule of King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, the children of Israel had turned their back on God and worshipped Baal. In a bold attempt to turn the people’s hearts back to God, Elijah calls the prophets of Baal to a contest. A sacrifice was prepared and Elijah challenges, “And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:24 ESV)

The deceived prophets cried out to Baal all day and no fire fell. Elijah then takes his turn. He prays to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel…then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, and when all of the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord He is God; the Lord He is God.’” (1 Kings 18:36-39 ESV)

Elijah experiences a stunning victory.

A short six verses later, Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah “by this time tomorrow” (1 Kings 19:2 ESV). Then “he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life.” (1 Kings 19:3 ESV) Elijah sits down under a tree and asks to die – “O Lord, take away my life…” (1 Kings 19:4ESV) and then falls asleep.

His triumph turned to discouragement – discouragement to depression – and depression to despair. What a turn of events

A quick scan of Elijah’s predicament can be best understood as the HALT syndrome. He found himself:

Hungry… he physically stopped eating

Angry… mad at God

Lonely… traveling in the journey alone

Tired… collapsed into sleep

Just when we think God isn’t there — that He has abandoned us – that the whole world would be better off without us – God is ready to meet us at each point of need.

Consider what happens next – – – An angel of the Lord wakes him up, and gives Elijah this simple instruction – “Arise and eat.” Elijah looked and there was “a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he “arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” (1 Kings 19:5-8 ESV)

If you’re in a pit it just might be that you need real food and sleep.

Then notice vs. 12 – God lovingly reaches out to His servant. He doesn’t leave him hopeless – He speaks in the “sound of a low whisper”, reassuring him of his presence, power and provision.

The all-powerful God is also intensely personal.

In times of despair we must slow the process and lean into his voice — listening and obeying as He conforms our will to His.

God may perform great miracles; more often, however, He is quietly at work in the hearts and souls of His people, speaking words of truth and comfort.

Listen and follow Him.

It will turn your life around.

The Sinning Servant: You? Me? Yes!

SOURCE:  Janice Wise/Discipleship Journal

THE SINNING SERVANT

God responds to our failures not with condemnation, but with gentle conviction.

It had been a good day! After building an altar, the prophets of Baal had laid out their sacrifice and shouted for their god to light the fire. All day they had clamored—but nothing happened.

Then Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord God, spreading his sacrifice upon it. Three times, at Elijah’s insistence, the people poured water over the offering, until the water ran down and filled the trench around the altar.

Elijah prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me . . . so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1K. 18:36–37).

The people watched in amazement as the fire of the Lord fell from Heaven and burned up everything—sacrifice, wood, stones, soil, even the water in the trench. How they cried, “The LORD, he is God! The LORD—he is God!” (1K.18:39). In triumph Elijah commanded the people to help him destroy the prophets of Baal. God had been faithful once again.

Then it was time to pray for rain. Three years before, Elijah had called for a drought in the land because of the sins of the people. Now God instructed Elijah to present himself to King Ahab with the announcement that rain was coming this day.

Elijah prayed seven times, until a cloud appeared in the sky and the wind rose, bringing a heavy rain upon the drought-stricken land. In the gathering storm, Elijah ran ahead of King Ahab’s chariot all the way to Jezreel. God had demonstrated His power and shown without a doubt that Elijah was His servant. Tired but elated, Elijah could thank God for the wonders of the day.

As he rested, a messenger came from the palace. Queen Jezebel’s words were pointed. “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them” (1 K. 19:2). She intended to kill Elijah as he had killed her prophets!

At the height of confidence and triumph the Enemy struck his blow. The Scriptures say, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life” (1K.19:3).

After a day’s journey into the desert, Elijah found a broom tree and sat down under it. “I have had enough, LORD,” he prayed in discouragement. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1K.19:4). Then Elijah did what we often do in times of discouragement; he lay down and fell asleep.

Discouraged—Elijah? This man of God who had that very day experienced such triumphs in his ministry? Yet here we find him full of fear, defeat, self-pity. We, too, face these enemies as we serve the Lord. And often, like Elijah, we let them control our reactions.

NO CONDEMNATION

How does God deal with faithful servants who succumb to the attack of the Enemy? With condemnation?

No, for condemnation enlarges the already heavy load of defeat and drives us farther from our God. The Scriptures teach, “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (Ro. 2:4). God’s love brings us to the place of conviction. There He lifts us up and sets us once more on His path for our lives. As we look at God’s way with Elijah we can better understand the positive force of God’s conviction in our own lives.

Elijah slept on under the broom tree. Then God sent an angel—not to upbraid or punish the prophet, but to give him hot bread and fresh water. After Elijah had eaten, he lay down again.

A second time the angel of the Lord came to him. Surely this time the angel would speak to Elijah about his shameful behavior. But no—look at what the angel said: “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you” (1K. 19:7). Once more Elijah received nourishment and encouragement.

THE PLACE OF CONVICTION

After he had experienced God’s kindness, we might expect Elijah to quit running, but he only used the added strength to run farther away. He traveled forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb, where he found a cave and spent the night.

God knows exactly where we are headed when we run, and He even helps us to get there. He shows His love to us as He leads us to the place of conviction.

I remember a childhood friend who once threatened to run away from home. Her mother responded kindly, “Oh, you don’t want to live with us anymore? Would you like me to help you pack your suitcase?” Deciding she wasn’t that eager to leave, my friend talked her problem over with her mother, who helped her become happy at home once again.

So God helped Elijah, giving him strength even to run away. When Elijah reached his hideaway God was there, too. And He had just one question. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1K. 19:9).

“I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty,” Elijah responded. “The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1K. 19:10).

See how fear and self-pity changed Elijah’s point of view. The Israelites had just proclaimed, “The LORD—he is God!” in response to the heavenly fire that consumed Elijah’s sacrifice. They helped Elijah put to death the prophets of Baal. And it was Queen Jezebel, not the Israelites, who had threatened to kill Elijah. When we get “under the circumstances,” driven by the Enemy, we have a distorted view of our situation.

God did not point out all these fallacies in Elijah’s complaints. Instead He spoke to him as He does to us when we have lost our way. He said in effect, “Look at Me.”

God’s GENTLE WHISPER

God told Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by” (1 K. 19:11). No condemnation, no explanation. Just the positive command to look at the One who can turn our darkest night into day by His presence.

There came a powerful wind—but the Lord was not in the wind. An earthquake followed—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, a fire—but the Lord was not in the fire.

For those who know His voice, God doesn’t speak through wind, earthquake, and fire. These are the ways He speaks to the world, to instill fear of Himself, for “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). Elijah did not need to be made afraid. He just needed to be reminded of his relationship with God.

After the fire came a gentle whisper. Then Elijah, recognizing the voice of his God, went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Once more God asked the question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1K.19:13).

Condemnation will hammer at us about our sin; conviction asks the question that helps us see and correct the wrong.

God asked the same question. Elijah gave the same answer. In love, God lets us speak out the self-pity and frustrations, emptying them from ourselves to Him. Again Elijah aired his complaints, ending with the plaintive, “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1K. 19:14).

God did not comment on Elijah’s twisted view of things. Instead, after allowing the prophet to express himself, God gave a positive direction. Genuine conviction always provides a bridge back to the path of God.

THE PATH BACK TO GOD

God commanded Elijah, “Go back the way you came.” Then He gave him instructions to anoint Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha (1K. 19:15–16). God was telling Elijah to get on with the work of the Kingdom. God also shared with Elijah some future events, thereby showing him that their friendship remained intact; Elijah continued to be God’s man no matter how far he had run.

Almost as an afterthought God added: “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him” (1 K.19:18). Elijah wasn’t the only one left, and God had known it all along.

Elijah’s conviction and repentance were complete, for we read in the next part of the chapter that he immediately went and obeyed God’s command to appoint Elisha to succeed him (1K.19:19). God blessed Elijah as he obeyed. When the prophet anointed Elisha, the young man left his family to become Elijah’s attendant. Elijah never again had to feel he was the “only one.”

THE POSITIVE POWER OF CONVICTION

Conviction speaks the truth in love. It usually consists of few words, sometimes only a question. But our hearts know we are being checked in our course by the One who loves us.

James wrote, “Elijah was a man just like us” (Jas. 5:17). We who serve God have great power from Him—and shattering weaknesses of our own. The creative might of God’s conviction forms a bridge from our weaknesses to His strength. Because of this power active in our times of failure and discouragement, we can gladly say with the Apostle Paul, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

When we suffer discouragement and self-pity we are God’s servants still. We can trust that He will restore us to His paths as we yield to the positive power of His conviction.

 

“I will not accuse for ever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me. . . . I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;

I will guide him and restore comfort to him.”

—Isaiah 57:16-18

How can I keep going when overwhelmed by the pressures of daily life?

SOURCE:  Marlene Bagnull/Discipleship Journal

Strength for the Battle

“I DON’T KNOW what’s wrong with me,” I admitted to a close friend. “I’m exhausted all the time, and I’m so irritable with the children. I flip out over the smallest things, then I feel guilty. Instead of praising God for all the good things He’s done for me, I’m almost always depressed. I feel like a failure as a Christian.”

My friend listened. She didn’t judge me as I was judging myself or break in with pat answers. Through the gift of her willingness to listen I discovered the root of the problem.

“I think I’m experiencing burnout,” I said. “I just have too many things to do, too much stress. I know my life is out of balance, but I don’t know what to do about it. I feel trapped. I try to pray. I try to read the Bible, but it only makes me feel worse. I feel as if God is angry with me for not applying the things I know and even teach to others.”

“Condemnation never comes from God,” my friend said. “You’re listening to the wrong voice.”

The tears I’d managed to hold back began to flow after I hung up the phone. “Oh, God,” I sobbed, “please help me to understand what’s happening to me. Please help me to find Your answers.”

My friend’s comment led me to turn to Paul’s letter to the Romans and read, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1). The burden of feeling God was angry and disappointed with me began to lift as I remembered the context in which the Apostle Paul had written those words. He, too, didn’t understand why he did some of the things he did, and why he failed to do the good he wanted to do (Ro. 7:15). But Paul wasn’t chained to feelings of guilt and self-accusation. He experienced the “law of the Spirit of life” setting him free from “the law of sin and death” (Ro. 8:2).

Freeing him from exhaustion and discouragement, too? I wondered as I thought of all that Paul had to endure. Beatings, imprisonments and riots, hard work, sleepless nights and hunger—Paul certainly endured many hardships that could have caused him to quit. Wherever he went he encountered hostility. He was thrown out of cities and told never to come back. Even his brothers in Christ did not always support him.

“God,” I prayed, “please show me what held Paul steady, what prevented him from giving up.”

The answers did not come immediately, but in the days that followed I began to see some principles I had never before applied to my problem.

Recognize that you’re being tested.

“We want to prove ourselves genuine ministers of God whatever we have to go through” (2 Cor. 6.4, Phillips ). Paul recognized the fact that he was being tested, and he determined, by an act of his will, to meet that test head-on. Rather than succumbing to self-pity or giving up when circumstances could easily have led to defeat, Paul chose to view trials as opportunities to prove to everyone watching that he was striving to live by the principles he taught.

Paul had encouraged the Galatians to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). In a lengthy letter to the Corinthians he encouraged them to “stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). In his first letter to the Thessalonians he told them to “be joyful always” (1 Thess. 5:16).

We do get tested on the things we profess to believe, but through the testings we have the opportunity to strengthen our own faith and the faith of others. How? Paul went on to say, “We have proved ourselves to be what we claim by our wholesome lives and by our understanding of the Gospel and by our patience. We have been kind and truly loving and filled with the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 6:6, Living Bible ).

But I was too tired to know whether or not I still understood the gospel or was filled with the Holy Spirit. My capacity to be patient and kind was exhausted. I knew it would take more than an act of my will to be any of these things.

Rely on God’s power.

The next verse provided a solution: “We have been truthful, with God’s power helping us in all we do” (2 Cor. 6:7, Living Bible ). I again saw how God wasn’t expecting me to do or be any of these things in my own strength. It was essential to honestly face my inadequacies. It is only as I admit my weaknesses that I come, as Paul did, to rely upon God’s power at work within me.

“Is my tendency to become overwhelmed by my ‘thorn in the flesh’?” I asked the Lord, thinking of Paul’s battle and all the times I had prayed for a stronger personality. I felt God speak to me the same words He had spoken to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Those words freed me, dispelling the fears that had been haunting me. I knew I no longer needed to be afraid of reaching the end of my resources because God’s power takes over when my strength is exhausted.

Go Into the battle equipped.

Finally the Lord reminded me that I am in a battle. To go into it without the “full armor of God” (Eph. 6:11) is as foolish as walking onto the front lines dressed for a game of tennis. I need to pick up and use the defensive weapons God provides for my protection. So every morning, for the past ten months, I’ve been “praying the armor on.” It’s become as much a part of my morning routine as getting dressed and brushing my teeth.

The belt of truth. “Lord,” I pray, “help me to gird myself with Your belt of truth” (Eph. 6:14). “Give me discernment that I might immediately recognize the enemy’s lies and half-truths. Help me to refuse to receive or believe them.”

The breastplate of righteousness. Next I mentally pick up the breastplate of righteousness (Eph. 6:14). It protects my most vulnerable area—my heart, the home of my feelings and emotions. It is so easy for me to be wounded by others, to allow myself to be influenced by fear of what they might say or think. “Lord,” I pray, “help me today to consistently choose to do what is right in Your eyes. Thank You for protecting me from the judgment and criticism I may receive.”

The shoes of the gospel. Just as I would not walk out of the house in the dead of winter barefooted, I take the time to have my “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).

John MacArthur, in his study notes for The Believer’s Armor, describes a common military practice of the Roman soldiers: “planting sticks in the ground which had been sharpened to a razor-point, and concealing them so that they were almost invisible. This was a very effective tactic because, if the soldier’s foot was pierced, he wouldn’t be able to walk—and if he couldn’t walk, he was totally debilitated.”1

To protect their feet, Roman soldiers wore boots with heavy soles. Pieces of metal protruded from the bottom of the boots, acting like today’s football cleats, to give the soldiers firm footing.

The shoes God provides for me give me a solid foundation upon which to stand. He readies me for His work by instructing and teaching me in the way I should go (Ps. 32:8). When I choose to follow His plan instead of asking Him to bless my plans, I find my feet do not become bruised and weary from going places He never intended for me to go. I also find that when I say “yes” to what He wants me to do rather than to what others tell me I should do, I am filled with peace instead of tension.

The shield of faith. Next I prayerfully pick up the shield of faith to stop the “flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). I ask God to make me mighty in spirit—to help me to walk by faith, not by sight. I also ask Him to help me not to lower my shield by nurturing doubts. A soldier can be fatally wounded if he lowers his shield for only a moment.

The helmet of salvation. This piece of the armor (Eph. 6:17) protects my mind. As I ask God to fit it snugly over my head, I am protected from indulgence in the negative thinking that tears me down. Each morning I thank God that I do not have to be bound by old habits and thinking patterns. I ask Him to continue His work of transforming me by renewing my mind (Ro. 12:2).

The sword of the Spirit. Finally, remembering that God has not provided any armor to protect my back, I ask Him to help me stand and face the enemy in His strength. I know that God does not intend for me to turn and run. Rather, He wants me to take the offensive by picking up the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).

Just as Jesus defeated Satan by quoting Scripture, I can speak God’s promises and see the enemy flee. When I’m exhausted and the pressure is on, I can claim Phil. 4:19—God will meet all my needs. Or 1 Cor. 1:7–8—I do not lack any spiritual gift; He will keep me strong to the end. There is a promise for every lie Satan would use to try to intimidate me. I may still feel overwhelmed, but when I go into battle praising and thanking God, I am victorious.

There are still days when I feel completely drained—when I fear I have nothing to give. If I fail to recognize I’m being tested, if I do not rely on God’s power, and if I go into the battle unequipped, I suffer and my family suffers. But praise God, it doesn’t have to be that way. I can know the joy Paul wrote about. I can “delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). Feelings of exhaustion and defeat will flee as I choose to draw closer to the Source of my strength.

 

Note
1. John MacArthur, The Believer’s Armor (Panorama City, CA: Word of Grace Communications, 1982), p. 41.

I Can’t Pray — But I Can Look At The Promises

SOURCE:  Richard Sibbes/Tolle Lege

“Look at the promises”

“A Christian complains he cannot pray. ‘Oh, I am troubled with so many distracting thoughts, and never more than now!’

But has He put into your heart a desire to pray? Then He will hear the desires of His own Spirit in you.

‘We know not what we should pray for as we ought’ (nor how to do anything else as we ought), but the Spirit helps our infirmities with ‘groanings which cannot be uttered’ (Rom. 8:26), which are not hid from God. ’My groaning is not hid from thee’ (Psa. 38:9).

God can pick sense out of a confused prayer. These desires cry louder in His ears than your sins. Sometimes a Christian has such confused thoughts that he can say nothing but, as a child, cries ‘O Father,’ not able to express what he needs, like Moses at the Red Sea.

These stirrings of spirit touch the heart of God and melt Him into compassion towards us, when they come from the Spirit of adoption, and from a striving to be better.

‘Oh, but is it possible,’ thinks the misgiving heart, ‘that so holy a God should accept such a prayer?’ Yes, He will accept that which is His own, and pardon that which is ours. Jonah prayed in the fish’s belly (Jon. 2:1), being burdened with the guilt of sin, yet God heard him.

Let not, therefore infirmities discourage us. James takes away this objection (James 5:17). Some might object, ‘If I were as holy as Elijah, then my prayers might be regarded.’ ‘But,’ says he, ‘Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are.’ He had his passions as well as we, or do we think that God heard him because he was without fault? Surely not.

But look at the promises: ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee’ (Psa. 50:15). ‘Ask, and it shall be given you’ (Matt. 7:7) and other like these.

God accepts our prayers, though weak, because we are His own children, and they come from His own Spirit, because they are according to His own will, and because they are offered in Christ’s mediation, and He takes them, and mingles them with His own incense (Rev. 8:3).

There is never a holy sigh, never a tear we shed, which is lost. And as every grace increases by exercise of itself, so does the grace of prayer. By prayer we learn to pray. So, likewise, we should take heed of a spirit of discouragement in all other holy duties, since we have so gracious a Saviour.

Pray as we are able, hear as we are able, strive as we are able, do as we are able, according to the measure of grace received. God in Christ will cast a gracious eye upon that which is His own.”

–Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1630/1998), 50-51.

Five (5) Ways to Stop Discouragement From Getting the Best of You

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Leslie Vernick

Discouragement and disappointment are normal emotions we all experience, even as Christians.

Peter felt discouraged with himself when he realized that he wasn’t as courageous as he thought he was, even though Jesus had warned him that he would deny him before the rooster crowed (Matthew 26:31 and 74,75). We too can feel discouraged and even depressed when we fail to live up to our own or other’s expectations.

 Job felt discouraged and frustrated with his friends. They didn’t get it. Trying to be helpful, they only heaped more shame and blame on Job for his afflictions. We also can feel let down by our friends and family. They don’t understand what we’re going through or don’t offer to help as we wish they would. (Read through the biblical book of Job for the story).

We can get discouraged with life’s circumstances. Things don’t turn out the way we’d hoped despite our persistent prayers. Elijah hoped that after all the miracles the Israelites saw performed on Mount Carmel, they would finally repent and put God first but they did not. King Ahab and Jezebel were as stubborn and hard hearted as always and Elijah felt discouraged, exhausted and believed his entire ministry was a waste (1 Kings 19).

Jeremiah felt angry and discouraged with God when he believed God was against him and temporarily lost hope in God (Lamentations 3). The disciples too felt discouraged after Jesus was crucified, before he rose from the dead. They said “We were hoping that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21) They couldn’t see the bigger picture and felt that their life’s work was a waste.

Discouragement happens, even to the strongest and best of people. Here are five (5) things you can do when you start to feel the black cloud of discouragement swallow you up.

1.  Be honest.   It does you no good to pretend you don’t feel what you feel. You can’t take action against a negative feeling until you first admit you have it. A strong Christian is not someone who never experiences negative feelings. It’s someone who has learned what to do with them when he or she has them and how to process them biblically.

2.  Take care of your body.  If your body isn’t working, your mind, emotions and will are also weakened. I love how God tended to Elijah’s body first, before addressing anything else, and provided ravens to feed him. Sometimes the circumstances of life drain us dry and we need to press pause, stop doing, and simply rest and refresh.

3.  Pay attention to your thought life.   Maturing as believers means we learn to think truthfully (Philippians 4:8) and to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

All of us attempt to make sense of the things that happen in our lives. We try to figure out why they happen and what it all means. It’s crucial that we pay attention to what stories we are telling ourselves about ourselves, about others, about God, or a particular situation and whether or not those stories are actually true. For example, if you look at what Elijah was telling himself after he became discouraged, much of it was not true, yet because he thought it, it added to his misery (read 1 Kings 19).

Jeremiah too was telling himself things about God that were not true but because his mind believed his version of reality instead of God’s, he lost his hope. Read through Lamentations 3.  Notice in verse 21 Jeremiah begins to have a change of mind and heart. He says, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.” When his thoughts changed, his negative emotions also lifted even though his circumstances stayed the same.

4.  Train yourself to “see” life out of two lenses at the same time.

When the apostle Paul counsels us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, (Romans 12:2), he is telling us that our mind needs to be trained to think differently than we have in the past. Part of this training is to learn to see both the temporal (life is hard) and the eternal (God has a purpose here) at the same time.

Paul speaks honestly of his temporal pain when he says he is hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. Yet, he did not become crushed, despairing, abandoned or destroyed. Why not? Because he learned to firmly fix the eternal perspective on his spiritual eyes. He says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. …So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:8-18).

Paul never minimized the pain of the temporal, yet discouragement didn’t win because he knew that God’s purposes were at work. (See Philippians 1:12-14 for another example).

5.  Press close into God.

The truth is, life is hard, people do disappoint and hurt us and we don’t always understand God or his ways. The prophet Naham talks about a day of trouble and reminds us “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, he knows those who trust in him.” (Naham 1:7) If we’re not in close trusting relationship with God, life’s troubles can become unbearable. The psalmist cried out, “I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see God in the land of the living. (Psalm 27).

One final tip. The best way to chase out a negative feeling is with another feeling. The Bible teaches us “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Gratitude is a powerful anecdote for discouragement.

Adult Children Gone Astray

We Raised Our Children To Love And Follow God. Now They Have Rebelled. What Did We Do Wrong?

SOURCE:  Jerry White/Discipleship Journal

“The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him” (Prov. 20:7).

We have all claimed verses like this for our children. But many of us have seen our children struggle and even turn away from God. For those who love God, there is no greater fear than the possibility that their children will rebel and fail to follow Him.

I know hundreds of committed Christians with teenagers and adult children whose difficulties run the gamut—drugs, rebellion, alcoholism, homosexuality, divorce, psychological disorders, immorality, children born outside of marriage, coldness of heart toward God.

These parents ask, “What did we do wrong?” assuming that the fault is theirs. Many godly parents around the world have done all they knew to do to nurture their children in the Lord— yet their children still face many problems. Even though today my wife and I thank God that our own children are walking with Him, we have been through our share of troubles.

When spiritual disaster strikes their children, some parents reason that they are no longer qualified to minister. Guilt, shame, discouragement, worry, and fear invade our hearts when our children rebel. All our biblical knowledge and teaching cannot erase pain that is real and deep.

Let me encourage you not to blame yourselves. As children mature, they make their own decisions, some of which are disastrous. They, too, are sinners, needing their own deep encounters with God. They choose their own actions. You did not make them do what they did. You brought them up to fear the Lord and allowed them to make their own decisions.

In today’s psychological climate of parent bashing, do not fall prey to unfounded accusations. Certainly you’ve made mistakes, for no parent is perfect. But you did not set out to harm your children. If there are areas where you have sinned, confess this to God and to your children. Ask for forgiveness and claim God’s grace Do not wallow in guilt.

If you are struggling with a difficult situation with your teen or young adult child, may I offer a few words of advice and encouragement?

• Realize you are not alone. Other parents have similar experiences. Most important, remember that God is with you (Is. 41:10, Is. 41:13).

• Find a few trusted friends to share your concerns and pain. Don’t put on an “everything is okay” front (Prov. 17:17).

• You are not obligated to explain your family situation to everyone. If curious people probe, merely ask them to pray (Prov. 10:19).

• If you know you have sinned against one of your children, confess to them and to God, asking their forgiveness (Prov. 28: 13).

• Hold your children accountable for their actions. God does (Prov. 20:11, Gal. 6:7).

• Refuse to feel guilty or ashamed. Don’t let your children lay guilt upon you when you know you served God and them with integrity.

• Love them deeply. Be there for them, but don’t always rescue.

• Wait and pray. God is a God of patience and hope. Wait for them to respond. In most cases there will be reconciliation (Ro. 5:3–5, Ro. 12:12).

• Keep ministering. You are still called by God. Satan often seeks to shake us from our calling by attacking our families (Prov. 24:10, Ro. 11:29).

• Submit yourself to God’s sovereignty, both in your life and in the lives of your children (Ro. 8:28–29).

What about outside counseling? It may be helpful, but only if the counselor operates from a biblical base, not just a secular, psychological one. In their book What Did I Do Wrong? What Can I Do Now? psychologist William Backus and his wife, Candace, comment on psychological theories:

Many parents who blame themselves for their child’s problems don’t realize that much of what they’re telling themselves is out-of-date psychological theory and not fact at all. Most are unaware that the theories, in fact, change regularly. It’s important, therefore, not to crucify yourself or anybody else on the basis of a psychological theory!

God’s children, too, rebelled: “Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! for the Lord has spoken: ‘I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me'” (Is. 1:2). He cried in His pain for them to repent and return. Finally, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for their sin and rebellion.

Christ is our hope. He is committed to you and your children and has not given up on you or on them. In His time He will work in their lives.

Do You Want To Be Healed?

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

38 years in a bed.

Next to a pool.

Sounds relaxing doesn’t it?

But as we read on, the story says the [broken] man was alone and horribly crippled. Probably twisted feet, pencil thin legs and atrophied muscles barely covered by a thin blanket. Why? Because this was the pool of Bethesda near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. There was something miraculous about this pool. Periodically the water stirred, and the first one into it was instantly healed.

Suddenly a commotion just inside the gate caused everyone to turn and look. A Man [Jesus], followed by a large crowd, walked through one of five alcoves. With humble determination, He moved to the crippled man’s side. Whispers fill the air. “Is it Him?” some ask. Every ear strains to hear what He might say as He kneels tenderly next to the man.

And then, with a quiet strong voice full of power and grace, He asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

The broken man feebly hangs his head and utters an interesting reply, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” His answer only goes to affirm the depths of his hopelessness. Not “yes” or even “no”. Just discouragement and despair

Even more interesting is the edict He gives in response. “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (John 5:1-9 MSG)

Jesus asked him — Do you want to be healed?

Each of us, at some point in our lives, have heard Him ask us the same question. Whether it’s physically… emotionally… relationally… or spiritually. Too often, we answer with the same timidity he did. Our pain is too deep. The hurt has been lodged in our heart for way too long. The doctors have tried everything. Hopelessness fills our souls…

When you really think about it, healing starts with a choice. And it is always for His glory.

Meditate on these words. Treasure them up and ponder them in your heart:

“But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

“O LORD, my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Psalm 30:2 ESV)

“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14 ESV)

“And many followed Him. And He healed them all.” (Matthew 12:15 ESV)

“He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

“Do you want to be healed?”

The next time He asks you that heartfelt question, reflect on these verses before you answer. And yes, He is always waiting and willing to turn our lives around.

When A Spouse Exhibits A “Jekyll/Hyde” Syndrome

SOURCE: Taken from a letter to  Dr. Diane Mandt Langberg

Dear Dr. Langberg,
I’ve been married only a few months, but I’m discovering my husband is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! When we’re in public, he’s usually happy and friendly. But at home he loses his temper easily and has a negative attitude. He didn’t behave this way before we married, so I’m feeling betrayed and discouraged. What should I do?

Let’s face it: There’s no way to know everything about the person you marry until after you take those vows. But your matrimonial “surprise” is beyond the norm.

Your new husband may have a serious anger problem—and may even be potentially abusive. Many abusive, explosive men exhibit a public and private self that’s vastly different; sometimes it’s because they need to feel in control at home since they feel inadequate outside it.

Not only do these men often exhibit a Jekyll/Hyde syndrome, they usually get worse over time. That means what’s anger in an earlier stage later can become abuse. The intensity of anger increases—as well as the frequency.

Answer the following questions about your husband’s outbursts: Does he berate or ridicule you? Does he attempt to control what you say, where you go, what you do? Is his anger full of blame? Has he ever been physically threatening (shaking his fist in your face, throwing something, putting his fist through a wall)? If your answer is “yes,” you need to take action right away.

Be clear with your husband about what is permissible behavior. It’s never okay for either marriage partner to berate, criticize, control, or ridicule the other. If you excuse or minimize his behavior, you’re partnering with your husband in allowing abusive words and/or behavior into your relationship.

Don’t dismiss your concerns. Seek help from someone who will take them seriously. Start with a pastor or a Christian counselor familiar with abuse.

Remember, you aren’t responsible for your husband’s anger; it’s his problem. You can’t manage his anger for him or live so perfectly as to avoid arousing it. Scripture makes it clear that what comes out of a person is because of what’s in his heart, not his environment (Prov. 4:23; Matt. 12:35).

Too often a wife tolerates awful words and behavior “for the sake of the marriage.” But that passively permits destruction to enter the marriage. What goes on behind closed doors needs to reflect Christ’s love. When it doesn’t, help is needed.

OVERCOMING DESPAIR: “GET UP AND DO THE NEXT THING”

SOURCE:  Oswald Chambers

Matthew 26:46

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples went to sleep when they should have stayed awake, and once they realized what they had done it produced despair. The sense of having done something irreversible tends to make us despair. We say, “Well, it’s all over and ruined now; what’s the point in trying anymore.” If we think this kind of despair is an exception, we are mistaken. It is a very ordinary human experience.

Whenever we realize we have not taken advantage of a magnificent opportunity, we are apt to sink into despair. But Jesus comes and lovingly says to us, in essence, “Sleep on now. That opportunity is lost forever and you can’t change that. But get up, and let’s go on to the next thing.” In other words, let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him.

There will be experiences like this in each of our lives. We will have times of despair caused by real events in our lives, and we will be unable to lift ourselves out of them. The disciples, in this instance, had done a downright unthinkable thing— they had gone to sleep instead of watching with Jesus. But our Lord came to them taking the spiritual initiative against their despair and said, in effect, “Get up, and do the next thing.” If we are inspired by God, what is the next thing? It is to trust Him absolutely and to pray on the basis of His redemption.

Never let the sense of past failure defeat your next step.

Rising Above Clouds of Discouragement

by Billy Graham

January 17, 2011 – My home in North Carolina is on a mountain nearly 4,000 feet high. Many times we can see below us the clouds in the valley. Sometimes thunderstorms come up, and we can see the lightning flash and hear the thunder roar down below, while we are enjoying beautiful sunlight and clear skies above.

Many times I have sat on the front porch and watched the clouds below. I have thought of the clouds of discouragement and suffering that temporarily veil the sunlight of God’s love. You may have a cloud hanging over your life. You may be in a hospital bed or you may be suffering discouragement and bereavement.

The Bible has a great deal to say about clouds, for they are symbolic of the spiritual forces that obscure the face of God. The Bible indicates that clouds are given to us for a purpose, that there is glory in the clouds. In Exodus 16:10 we read, “They looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.” Without the clouds there would be no shield from the burning sun. There would be no lavish sunsets; no rain; no light; no beautiful, picturesque landscapes.

Often when we board an airplane, the sky is overcast. But as the plane climbs up through the clouds, we emerge into a sun-drenched world far above the dismal and disappointing things of Earth. If we could only see our clouds from the other side, as we do when flying above them in an airplane, their radiant magnificence would take our breath and our worries away. These same clouds that are hanging low in your life, and look so dark from the underside, would look totally different if you could see them from God’s vantage point.

I want to remind you of some of the clouds that hide from you the beauty of the face of God.
First, there is the cloud of suffering. I received a letter from a woman suffering on a hospital bed in the last stages of cancer. She did not ask that God would relieve her of suffering or raise her up, but only that God’s grace would be sufficient through the trial of suffering.

The Bible teaches that human suffering is an integral part of life. Job said, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Our life has its beginning in suffering. Life’s span is marked by pain and tragedy, and our lives terminate with the enemy called death. The person who expects to escape the pangs of suffering and disappointment simply has no knowledge of the Bible, history or life.

To this dear woman on her hospital bed I would say, “Look toward Heaven, look beyond the clouds, and you will see that the sufferings you are undergoing here are nothing compared to the glory that God has prepared for you there.”

Tell me why the gardener trims and prunes his rosebushes, sometimes cutting away productive branches, and I will tell you why God’s people are afflicted. God’s hand never slips. He never makes a mistake. His every move is for our ultimate good. The knowledge of this caused Paul to sing, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

My beloved suffering saint, everything is under control. His will for you is being wrought in the whirlwind and in the storm, and His blessed presence is in every cloud of distress that crosses your pathway. The Master Gardener is purging your life so that you might bring forth more fruit and more glory to Christ in this world and in the world to come.

Another cloud that obscures the sun and distresses us is the cloud of discouragement. Many of the great Bible heroes became discouraged: Moses in the Sinai desert, Elijah when he heard Jezebel was searching for him to take his life, and David when his son Absalom rebelled against him.

Discouragement often comes when we don’t get our own way or when things don’t work out the way we want them to. The children of Israel thought that because they were God’s children they should be spared adversity and trouble, that Canaan should be captured without a struggle. But this was not God’s plan. It never is. We must be willing to die to self before we can know the real meaning of life. We must often bleed before we can be blessed, and a cross must be endured before the crown is to be worn.

Discouragement is the very opposite of faith. It is Satan’s device to try to thwart the work of God in your life. Discouragement blinds our eyes to the mercy of God and makes us perceive only the unfavorable circumstances.

There is only one way to dispel the blighting cloud of discouragement. If you are counting on your own strength and ingenuity, you are doomed to continued discouragement. But the Bible says, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).

I have never met a person who spent time in daily prayer and in the study of the Word of God and was strong in faith who was ever discouraged for very long.

Third, there is the cloud of disappointment. I received a letter from a 19-year-old girl on the West Coast whose fiancé had just broken off their engagement. Her heart was crushed, and life no longer seemed worth living. I wrote to tell her that it is not always easy to trace God’s designs in our ill-planned hopes and dreams. But rest assured that if we are called according to His purpose, and if we love God, all things do work together for good. Who are we to dictate which way the winds of Providence shall blow, or how the Pilot of life shall maneuver our ship through life’s storms? The psalmist said, “He … guided them by the skillfulness of his hands” (Psalm 78:72).

Yes, clouds will come. They are part of the fabric of life. But by God’s grace we need not be depressed by their presence. Like the misty billows that float above us, they protect us from the brightness of the sun; they reveal the glory of God, and from their lofty height God speaks to us. Like the children of Israel, we are travelers to the Promised Land. As the Israelites traveled through the wilderness, the Bible says, “The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way” (Exodus 13:21).

One of the best ways to get rid of discouragement is to remember that Christ is coming again. The most thrilling, glorious truth in the world is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. When we see pessimism on every side, we should remember the Bible is the only book in the world that accurately predicts the future. The Bible is more current than tomorrow morning’s newspaper! And the Bible says the consummation of all things will be the coming again of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. … I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).

If your life is dark, depressing and gloomy today, Christ can turn your dark clouds inside out. The sunlight of His love can still shine into the darkest part of your life. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

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