July 8, 2019
It seems that with all our knowledge, information and experience, we should be on top of the mountain more of the time.
I know this is how I often evaluate my life. I think that after all I’ve endured, I should now be able to face all kinds of problems without discouragement.
But it doesn’t work like that.
I can preach a message and see hundreds of people set free. . . . But within a short time, I can find myself bogged down, discouraged and confused, wondering what to do next and trying to find a way to quit, slow down or find an easier path.
Finally, I realized that discouragement, although a tool of the enemy, is also an instrument of God, used to shape us and bring us into all that He has for us.
In his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis gives the dialogue between senior devil, Screwtape, and the junior devil he is teaching, Wormwood. The instruction given to Wormwood on how to deal with man’s disappointment and discouragement is eye-opening.
Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anti-climax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy [God] allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavor. . . . It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together.
In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing. The Enemy takes this risk because He has a curious fantasy of making all these disgusting little human vermin into what He calls His “free” lovers and servants—”sons” is the word He uses. . . .
Desiring their freedom, He therefore refuses to carry them, by their mere affections and habits, to any of the goals which He sets before them: He leaves them to “do it on their own.” And there lies our opportunity. But also, remember, there lies our danger. If once they get through this initial dryness successfully, they become much less dependent on emotion and therefore much harder to tempt.
It’s true. Take heart in the truth that God uses discouragement to work all sorts of good into our lives. By it, He strengthens weak knees, granting the fortitude to journey on and preparing us for the next seasons of life.
Discouragement also has a unique way of keeping us connected to Him. It is easy to forget how much we need God when the skies are blue, the sun is shining and the birds are singing. But watch the dark clouds roll in and the storms come, and we are forced to seek shelter—in Him. This is why the psalmist said, “But it is good for me to draw near to God” (Psalm 73:28). In another version this verse reads, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good” (NASB).
Daily Drawing Near
In Exodus 16, we see a picture of how the Lord designed our spiritual lives. The Israelites were required to daily collect the manna God provided for them. They couldn’t collect enough on one day to last for two days, for if they collected more than they needed for that day, it spoiled and became full of worms. They couldn’t store it up. What they gathered was enough to sustain them for only one day.
The Lord has designed our spiritual life like that as well. Daily we must come to Him to be refreshed and restored. Just like the Israelites needed to gather the manna daily, we need spiritual refilling daily.
And the beautiful thing is, He fills us whenever we come to Him. We are drawn to Him daily out of absolute necessity. Without Him we are like a branch cut off from the vine. It is good that we need to come daily to the Lord. If we didn’t, we would so easily wander and try to live in our own strength. God loves us too much for that.
In Psalm 119:67 the writer tells us, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (emphasis added).
The affliction worked for good, drawing the psalmist back to keeping God’s word. Our discouragement works for good in our lives as well, drawing us nearer to the Lord.
This also reminds me of the familiar verse, Romans 8:28—“All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
God continually causes “all things” (and discouragement is one of the “things” included) to help us come back to Him continually for refilling. Truly, the nearness of God is our good.
I understand that it may be difficult to believe that God has a plan even in the discouragement you may be facing. But regardless, He can be believed. And He knows our breaking point (see Psalm 103:14). The struggles and all the difficulties you and I face are designed to reshape us, not to destroy us.
Season of Lent is a journey to spiritual growth, renewal and an opportunity to know the Lord Jesus more intimately and closely. We must hear the Lord speaking to us all along the way as the journey continues so that our heart-attitude will become more like His. The way to attain this is by deliberately choosing an attitude of confession, denying of self, fasting, meditation, prayer and supplication. And, the life is enriched with humility of Christ and service to others. This daily devotional will do just that: bringing the focus upon Jesus and enabling spiritual renewal in our walk with the Lord.
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