Tag Archives: Discouragement

Opposition is Inevitable

But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that [Jesus] drives out demons.”
Matthew 9:34 (NIV)

One of the things I have noticed over recent years is the divergent poles of political thought on both sides of the political spectrum. One side thinks that everything they believe is “all good” and whatever the opposition believes is “all bad.” Those in the middle who desire to seek compromise are pulled apart by the extremes on both sides. No matter what good any one tries to do or say, they are immediately attacked, slandered, criticized and their thoughts summarily dismissed.

I found it interesting that amidst Jesus’ unprecedented display of divine power and love He experiences criticism and negativity on all sides.

  • Jesus extends forgiveness to a paralytic, then heals the man … and the religious leaders dismiss Him a blasphemer.
  • Jesus shows love in reaching out to Matthew, the tax collector, and his friends … and He is condemned by the religious leaders for being with sinners, and criticized by the disciples of John the Baptist for partying and not fasting.
  • Jesus arrives to raise the synagogue leader’s daughter from the dead … and He is laughed at by the mourners gathered there.
  • Jesus quietly heals two blind men, restoring their sight. He asks only that they keep quiet about it … and they do the opposite of what Jesus asked.
  • Jesus casts out a demon who had made a man mute … and the good religious people said that Jesus must be the Prince of Demons.

Along life’s road I have come to understand that you can do nothing worthwhile in this world without being criticized and condemned by somebody. Opposition is inevitable in this world, even to the things of God’s Spirit. Today I witness Jesus, who is healing, forgiving, loving, raising the dead and releasing people from spiritual bondage. At every turn He is being criticized, dismissed, ignored, laughed at, and condemned.

Why should I think that it would be any different for me?

This morning I’m reminded that no matter where Jesus leads and no matter what I am called to do, I will encounter some measure of doubt, criticism, hatred and opposition. My job is to press on, keep my eyes focused on Jesus, and to love even those who criticize me for it.

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” – Albert Einstein

Big Catch at the Right Time

This was one of Dad's and my better catches.
This was one of Dad’s and my better catches.

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. Luke 5:5-7 (NIV)

I did a lot of fishing with my dad and siblings when I was a kid. There was nothing worse than being out all day, and not catching a darn thing. For a kid, it was torture. I can only imagine how much worse it was for Simon when it was all night he’d been out and fishing was his livelihood. As I read this morning, I so identified with the discouragement Simon had to be feeling. He was tired. He was depressed. The last thing on earth he wanted to do in that moment was go back out on the water and, to top it all off, he’d just been washing his nets. Going back out meant that he’d have to come back and wash them all over again. Ugh!

I have often found, along life’s road, that God’s timing and my timing are not always the same. As frustrating and discouraging as it can get waiting on God’s timing, I have not been discouraged in the long run. The adrenaline rush that Simon must have felt when he realized his nets held the largest catch he’d ever experienced pushed away any weariness he felt. The catch served to teach him that this teacher from Nazareth really was a man of God, and was what Simon needed to convince him to leave his nets and follow the young rabbi. Finally, the catch would have provided Simon and the boys the funds they would need to provide for their families and their new life as disciples of Jesus.

Like Simon, I have found that God’s timing usually comes through, not when I want it, but right when I need it, and it provides God’s best when I need it the most on multiple levels.

Lessons Learned in Time

A page of a calendar.
A page of a calendar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
He settles the childless woman in her home

    as a happy mother of children.
Psalm 113:3, 9 (NIV)

I have been meditating in recent weeks about the passage of time, and the way that God has arranged layers of meaning into days, weeks, seasons, and years. God exists beyond time and time is as much a part of God’s creation as the stars in the sky or the oceans. As with all artists, what is created is an expression of the creator and I have been thinking about the ways time expresses the character and nature of God, who is not bound by it.

So, as I read the psalm this morning I was at first struck by the third verse of the lyric. Praise and worship of the Creator is to be a part of the natural flow of day from morning until night. In ancient days, there were specific times around the clock when followers stopped what they were doing to pray. Christian tradition calls this the daily offices or “praying the hours.” I attempt to pray the hours on a regular basis, but confess to being horrible at it. David even wrote in the lyric of his psalms about his stopping to pray five times a day. Some religions continue this tradition as do some groups within the larger family of Jesus’ followers.

Then I came to verse nine and it stirred a whole host of emotions within me. This is a verse that I had memorized and held onto while, for years, Wendy and I were diligently attempting to have children together. As our attempts met with repeated failure, this verse became the source of incredible anger within me as I wrestled with doubt, disappointment, and discouragement. The incredible emotional pain of that period of our lives has waned over this past year or two, but reading verse nine brought it flooding back to me this morning.

And so, this morning I have these two verses connecting for me in ways I would have never connected them seven or eight years ago. I have come to learn that there are layers of purpose and meaning in the passage of time. Day-by-day God is to be praised in the waxing and waning of the sun and moon as we tread our life journey through its peaks and valleys. Wendy and I have not realized our hearts desire to have a child together as had envisioned. Throughout our earthly lives, this reality will be the source of shared grief.

In the hindsight which the creation of time affords, however, I now realize that the promise is not wholly unfulfilled nor is the grief we experience eternal. As we walked together through some dark times Wendy would say through her tears, “If God is good, and He is, then we must believe that the plans He has are the best for us even if we don’t understand them.”

Many days have passed. The grief has not gone away, but it less acute than it was. Over time, our experience has broadened my perspective and I like to believe that it has deepened my faith. I am learning that sometimes I ask the wrong questions, and then get angry when I don’t understand the answers. I am learning that time is layered with more meaning and purpose than I’ve ever realized, and that lesson changes the way I experience this 17,415th day of my journey and the way I relate to those with whom I share it.

From the rising of the sun this morning, until it goes down, my heart and my lips will praise God.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 42

English: Monday Morning :: duo pop & Folk Fran...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!
Psalm 42:11 (NLT)

It’s not only Monday morning as I write this post, but it’s also the first morning back from a week of vacation. Wendy and I did what we hardly ever do, which is to try and unplug from work. Despite a few frantic e-mails and phone calls from work that I couldn’t ignore, I did pretty well at pushing the tyranny of the urgent to the back burner. It was refreshing, and I would be lying to you if I told you that I was really excited about the pile of e-mails, the pressing deadlines, and the dropped balls which I am facing this morning.

The thing that I noticed about today’s chapter is the juxtaposition of the questions “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?” with the clear statements of determination “I will put my hope in God. I will praise him again.” The truth of the matter is that life is full of Monday mornings. The “back to work blues” is a familiar emotion.  The important thing is not to exclude God from these moments, but to recognize God within them. When we choose to realize God’s presence in every moment – even a Monday morning back from vacation – and consciously decide to praise God in and through every circumstance, we find ourselves on the path toward both maturity and wisdom.

Chapter-a-Day Colossians 3

from ricoslounge via Flickr

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Colossians 3:5a (NLT)

This morning I woke in my own bed. I’m happy to be home but tired and worn out from a long week of business travel. It is probably the weariness, but as I read through today’s chapter I felt the burden of how much further I have to go. Some mornings you look back on the road behind and feel like you’ve made little progress, then glance ahead and feel the burden of how far the road stretches out before you.

Consider, for example, the command to put to death the evil and dark things lurking in my soul. Some things are more easily eradicated than others and are long gone. Some things have died a slow, lingering death over time and distance. Then there are tenaciously proud, greedy, and selfish appetites of my soul with which I seem to endlessly struggle. Is struggle the right word? It’s easy to say that they are simply difficult to exterminate and impervious to my every attempt to deal with them. I’m afraid that the truth of the matter is that I lack the willingness. We tend to settle in to comfortable patterns with our appetites. Denial, avoidance, and distraction are easier than confession, confrontation and action.

Today, I’m feeling humbled and sobered by the road ahead and how far I have to go. I perceive that there is so much more of me and far too little of Jesus in me. Some times you don’t make progress until you’ve unburdened yourself from the things that weigh you down. Yet, there is no retiring from this journey. There is only the daily decision to go my own direction, go back, sit down on the path, or keep pressing on.

I’m lacing up the shoes. I’m determining to pitch some of this dead weight and continue pressing on.

Some days it’s not as easy as others.

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 46

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“No, I’m not finished with you yet.” Jeremiah 46:28 (MSG)

I am bankrupt both financially and spiritually.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
I am utterly alone. There’s no one to help me.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
My dream lies in fractured pieces around my feet.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
I did it….again. I’m such a wretch.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
I’m always a finalist, but I never get the job.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
Old age is upon me. My body is wasting away.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
My every attempt to have children is a miscarriage.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
My body is wracked by incurable disease.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
I am nobody, nothing, going nowhere.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”
My life counts for nothing. I’m a squirrel in a spinning wheel.
“No, I’m not finished with you yet.”

Believe.

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Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 32

Some time later Hezekiah became deathly sick. He prayed to God and was given a reassuring sign. 2 Chronicles 32:24 (MSG)

I was awake early this morning. My brain was buzzing with anxious thoughts. Like Hezekiah and Jerusalem, I feel besieged. As I lay in the pre-dawn hours, pleading for sleep to return, my mind recounted troubling headlines and disappointing events.

This morning, I stand post on the wall of life and hear discouragement’s taunts. I shore up my heart with God’s promises. I remind my anxious heart of God’s track record of faithfulness.

Today, I’m praying for a reassuring sign.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and linlin