Discouragement is something we all face at varying times in our lives. Having unmet expectations can lead to disappointment and sadness. I would be lying if I told you this last year moving across the world didn’t hold moments of true discouragement for me personally and for my family.
We had a local pastor who questioned our coming with strong statements like, “are you sure you’re called to Newcastle? We already have a lot of great churches here.” Great people have visited our church and didn’t return for whatever reason. That’s always discouraging for me because I think everyone should love our church and want to be a part of it!
I’m sure you all have the regular letdowns of your spouse not meeting certain expectations (is mine the only one who leaves socks all over the house) and/or kids disobeying or deceiving you despite all your good efforts at instilling morals and molding their character.
It’s not “IF” we are going to be discouraged, it’s “WHEN” and the bigger question becomes “HOW” do we deal with it? At times, I have had big fat pity parties for myself becoming the victim in my own mind about how life isn’t fair and usually blaming others. If everyone would just “do things my way” life would be so much easier! That’s not a good approach… it’s self-centered and a set up for more disappointment because I have yet to master the art of controlling other people! It’s a losing battle that will bring casualties every time.
In the book of Acts, Luke writes the story of the beginnings of the church and many experiences of the first followers of Christ. It’s like an exciting action movie in parts and if we read the passages carefully, we see extraordinary accounts of persecution and trials that these early church leaders came up against. Discouragement unlike any most of us have or will ever encounter.
Paul and Barnabas were going about telling people the good news of Jesus and lives were being changed. Practically the whole city turned up one Sabbath to hear Paul preach. The message of salvation spread like wildfire all through the region. You could say these guys were building the first “mega-church” with great success! Week after week, the numbers were growing and people were coming their way.
Then, towards the end of Chapter 13, something interesting happens: “Some of the Jews convinced the most respected women and leading men of the town that their precious way of life was about to be destroyed. Alarmed, they turned on Paul and Barnabas and forced them to leave. Paul and Barnabas
shrugged their shoulders
and went on to the next town, Iconium, brimming with joy and the Holy Spirit, two happy disciples.” (vs 50 – 52 MSG).
How many times do we have difficult situations (usually involving people) that keep us up at night? Stomach ulcers ensue from the difficult co-worker who seems out to get us. Pastors who let financial stress or a conflict in the church cause them to question their call. Major stress from family members can bring on depression and sadness.
How did Paul and Barnabas seem to move on quickly from this major setback in their ministry? Momentum was going their way with influence in the city among leaders; momentum that was building the church was suddenly thwarted by some negativity and bad influence.
I believe they shrugged their shoulders (one version says they “dusted off their feet”) and kept moving on the same way we can all move beyond discouragement – by staying full of the Holy Spirit! Staying in close proximity to our Heavenly Father who loves us no matter what our circumstances. Keeping a heavenly perspective throughout trials knowing that this world is not our home. Making sure we aren’t setting people up as our Gods in order to gain approval or fulfillment.
I want to remain FULL OF JOY as ONE HAPPY DISCIPLE no matter what comes my way. What about you? How do you stay encouraged? Feel free to share in the comments section so “that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12).