Sunday, July 20, 2014

Discouragement. We’ve all felt it.

Deep, enervating, paralyzing. Sliding, sometimes, into despair.

As I’ve worked my way through the Psalms, a handful of themes surface time after time. Fear, depression, anger, and yes, discouragement and despair. Resignation, then surrender to the Lord, and a renewed surge of hope. Elation when we’ve seen Him come through for us.

Kind of like life, yes?

I see so many, lately, suffering under an onslaught of discouragement. We fragile humans are so prone to it. Always have been …

Psalm 44 (NKJV) … To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of the sons of Korah.

We have heard with our ears, O God,
Our fathers have told us,
The deeds You did in their days,
In days of old:
You drove out the nations with Your hand,
But them You planted;
You afflicted the peoples, and cast them out.
For they did not gain possession of the land by their own sword,
Nor did their own arm save them;
But it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance,
Because You favored them.

We forget: even during the founding of Israel as a nation, the battles weren’t won because of the people’s own strength. So in our own lives. God doesn’t let His children stay long in a position of thinking anything we’ve gained is of ourselves.

You are my King, O God;
Command victories for Jacob.
Through You we will push down our enemies;
Through Your name we will trample those who rise up against us.
For I will not trust in my bow,
Nor shall my sword save me.
But You have saved us from our enemies,
And have put to shame those who hated us.
In God we boast all day long,
And praise Your name forever. Selah

He truly is our God! Though we may be armed with bow and sword—with influence and intellect and talent—we dare not trust in those to win us anything.

But You have cast us off and put us to shame,
And You do not go out with our armies.
10 You make us turn back from the enemy,
And those who hate us have taken spoil for themselves.
11 You have given us up like sheep intended for food,
And have scattered us among the nations.
12 You sell Your people for next to nothing,
And are not enriched by selling them.

Isn’t it so, no matter what the joys and victories we’ve had in the past, that the present distress can make us feel that God really has cast us off, given us up for dead. And then … the discouragement creeps in and lays waste to our souls.

13 You make us a reproach to our neighbors,
A scorn and a derision to those all around us.
14 You make us a byword among the nations,
A shaking of the head among the peoples.
15 My dishonor is continually before me,
And the shame of my face has covered me,
16 Because of the voice of him who reproaches and reviles,
Because of the enemy and the avenger.

We’ve seen this in past Psalms, the lament over turns of fortune, the nosedive into trouble and the subsequent temptation to despair. Do we hold fast to our conviction of the goodness of God, and the hope that things can change again for the better? Or will we let go?

17 All this has come upon us;
But we have not forgotten You,
Nor have we dealt falsely with Your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
Nor have our steps departed from Your way;
19 But You have severely broken us in the place of jackals,
And covered us with the shadow of death.

20 If we had forgotten the name of our God,
Or stretched out our hands to a foreign god,
21 Would not God search this out?
For He knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

23 Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord?
Arise! Do not cast us off forever.
24 Why do You hide Your face,
And forget our affliction and our oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
Our body clings to the ground.
26 Arise for our help,
And redeem us for Your mercies’ sake.

As Paul says many hundreds of years later, what shall we say to these things? Does God forget us? Will He make us wait forever to see the fruit of our faith and our labor for Him?

But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you ... For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

... knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance ... (Hebrews 6:9-12, 10:34b-36a, NKJV)

We have need of endurance. This life is hard. We have the glory of the Lord’s strength to win our battles, but we’ll have all the fury of the enemy leveled at us, in the meantime.

Yet, He does not forget us.

He is our strength.

Hold fast your confidence ... and know that when you can’t hang on any longer, He holds you.


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