What a victory Elijah had for the LORD in 1 Kings 18! He had single handedly conquered a whole swath of idolatrous prophets – those ascribing their worship to their impotent god, Baal. What Elijah didn’t count on, however, was how that victory would incite the ire of the King’s wife. He had twenty-four hours to get out of town!
Out of victory, having experienced maximal favour of the LORD, comes the threat of death.
There are times in our lives, perhaps after a time of lucid encouragement, when we’re slapped down. In a mix of emotion, shock bypasses all our veneers of emotional protection, and immediately we’re tossed down without defence, and thrust into a depression. Depressed! How did it so quickly assail us?
That is discouragement. It’s an experience common to all humankind. Yet, the absurdity is we feel all alone. About as alien as we could. We never realise the next person could be as discouraged as we are, or more!
We enter into the temptation to shrink back, to isolate, to avoid all difficulty. Fear causes us to hide when the cause of help would be to share our burden and take a hiatus.
And for a time, we go into avoidance mode, into that fake place of ‘safety’. It’s understandable. We’re trying to reconcile just what happened, what we’re to do about it, and how to respond and recover the lost ground. We need privacy about now, or so we think.
Discouragement is both a temptation and a test. It depends on how we think about it. It’s our thinking that has to be challenged. If we continue to think fearful thoughts, we’ll succumb and isolate. But if we acknowledge how we feel in our thinking, telling ourselves it’s okay – indeed, understandable – God can give us the strength to manage the thinking moment. Panic can give way to peace; chaos to calmness. Even when we’re still flailing.
God has a role for discouragement.
Discouragement makes us depend on God which causes growth in humility and integrity. Journeying with God through discouragement takes us deeper in the experience of bearing reality. It’s His greatest wish for us, that we would love truth. And if we can love a reality that breaks us, we can love God no matter what. Could anything then defeat us? We would have nothing left to fear other than having a right fear of God, Himself.
See how important discouragement is as an activator for growth? It’s never nice, but it is necessary. And if that’s no encouragement for you in being discouraged, take heart and know semblances of confidence will return soon enough, especially if we allow ourselves the freedom to be vulnerable enough to share with our loved ones.
Discouragement reveals us as true disciples, reeling in a reality that redeems God’s strength if only we stay weak.
Discouragement’s purpose is to goad us to get on with our journey of dependence on God. As soon as we’re truly dependent on God we quickly realize the importance of trusted others in sharing our burdens.
Stay strong in your weakness, and in that be blessed knowing He is with you and for you!
Steve Wickham holds Degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counselling.
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