Have you ever spent time preparing for something that was important to you. Whether it was a ball game, a job interview, asking someone to the prom, or maybe something as simple as losing some weight. You spend valuable time and energy getting ready and covering every possible aspect to the point that you can’t imagine not being successful. Then the big day comes and nothing goes as planned, even the things you prepared for and knew were coming overwhelmed you and nothing happens the way you expected. At the end, you’re standing there with nothing, and all the preparation, all the sacrifice, all the time and energy they all seem like they were a waste. In those times, we are confronted with a common emotion that we all deal with at some point in our lives. . . . discouragement.
Discouragement is a word that is defined as a feeling of losing hope, of losing confidence, of losing courage. Discouragement is not something you can point to. It is not something that has weight or mass, and still it can hold you back and it can weigh you down. Discouragement prevents you from moving forward in life.
In seminary classes and even secular counseling classes we are told repeatedly the one thing you don’t tell people who are discouraged is that “things will work out.” Just relax everything will work out. If your hope in this life is put in material possessions, your friends, your family, your children or any other things found on this earth, then “it will all work out,” is a ridiculous thing to say in that moment. It feels patronizing and it feels trivializing. People don’t want to hear that when they feel like they’ve got this weight on them that’s too much to bear. “Hey, it’s all going to work out. See you later.” It doesn’t feel very helpful. But here is the reality: It is not necessarily a truth you want to hear from somebody. You don’t want somebody to say it to you, but you better say it to you. You better remind yourself of this truth that the Bible says in Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” “If you love the Lord,” and are “called according to His purpose.” It is going to work out—on one side of eternity or the next. It’s going to work out.
And so here’s a good thing to say to yourself when you feel rejected, abandoned, when you feel alone, when you feel discouraged… A good thing to say to yourself is: “The Lord is with me. The Lord is with me.” It’s probably something you need to say to yourself again and again throughout your story, and you’ve got to believe it. The Bible tells us that if we are followers of Jesus that not only is God with us but that God is in us. That that’s our hope and that hope won’t disappoint us. And if we put our hope in our situations and our hope in our circumstances and our hope in things going just the right way, we’re going to feel discouraged. But our hope is in the Lord and that the Lord is with us. And so we remind ourselves of that again and again and again and then again.
In 1905, Civilla Martin joined her husband, a local church pastor, as he made his regular rounds visiting his parishioners. There was an older couple in their church, Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle, who they would visit from time to time to encourage them. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for more than twenty years, and her husband was crippled and confined to a wheelchair for many years. Inevitably, the Martins found that they would leave feeling encouraged by their interaction with this physically challenged and broken couple. Finally, on one particular visit Pastor Martin asked Mrs. Doolittle how she stayed so hopeful, how she fought off discouragement. What was the secret of her joy? And Mrs. Doolittle didn’t preach a sermon. Her reply was very simple. She recited to the couple the words of David and the teaching of Jesus ,“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go: I will guide you with my eye. (Psalm 32:8) Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matt 6:26) Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, for you are of more value than sparrows. (Matt 10:29-31) Finally, Mrs. Doolittle looked at the couple and said simply, “If His eye is on the sparrow then I know that He watches me.” Mrs. Martin heard that expression from Mrs. Doolittle, and she was humbled and inspired. She went home and she thought of her struggles and her challenges and her circumstances and her situations and all the things that could discourage her. And she sat down to write a song and the first words were, “Why should I feel discouraged?” And she begins to remind herself of the hope that she has in Jesus, a hope that doesn’t disappoint. When finished she had written a hymn that even today touches the hearts of people everywhere, “His eye is on the sparrow.”
When you are sitting in God’s waiting room searching for answers, asking for guidance or demanding to know why something happened, remember He is always with you. He knew you when he stitched you together in the womb of your mother. He has watched over you every day of your life. He has smiled with you and laughed with you. He has mourned over some of the things that have happened to you. He has sat at your side as you cried yourself to sleep. Because from the beginning He has had a plan for your life. Every step of the way He has been using the people and events of your life to guide you along His plan. That plan in the end will culminate with you being drawn closer and closer into a relationship with Him.
LIBRARY LEDGE –
Donations to our library: Sweet Tomorrows & Hannah’s List, both by Debbie Macomber. Thank you for your donations. Relax with a book.
by Oscas Siema Mmbali, pastor
Friends in Belize City celebrated World Quaker Day by sharing a meal after Sunday Meeting for Worship. At the end of the meal, a substantial amount of food remained. Youth at the church divided and packed it in several containers. As I was driving them home, I realized they had decided to share the food with families in the community they knew needed that meal.
They led me to new streets and places. We stopped by different homes. A young man left the car with a meal package, walked to the door and knocked. Someone came and opened the door surprised. A brief conversation followed. The meal was received. We moved to the next home.
These youth emerged with a spontaneous outreach ministry. They identified families in need. They visited families, told them about World Quaker Day, the meal, and their decision to share it. This experience helped me see that these youth are finding creative ways to translate their worship experiences at the church into practices of love and care to the communities they come from.