DEALING WITH DISCOURAGEMENT: A 2020 survival guide


I started my 2020 survival guide with the post “Faith, Hope and Love.” It was followed in short order by “Finding Faith”, “Building Faith” and “Walking by Faith”. It was time to start writing about hope. Yet every time I sat down to write, the words were like a classroom of unruly 2-year olds on a massive sugar high. IF I could find the words, I couldn’t get them to sit still long enough to form a coherent sentence.

The truth is, I was having trouble writing about hope, because I was having trouble finding hope. I had already hit the proverbial wall with the COVID situation. Social distancing and being separated from family and friends had worn thin. Then came the murder of George Floyd. That was more than I could handle. In the wake of all 2020 had dished out I found myself struggling with a onslaught of negative emotions.

I don’t experience discouragement often. This time however, I just couldn’t shake off the negative emotions that were overwhelming me. I found myself getting ground down by 2020 and all its fallout. I was relating a little too much with Job’s outcry; “Where now is my hope?Will it go down with me into Sheol? Shall we go down together in the dust?” (Job 17:15.)

We are facing a LOT of challenges. Apart from the health concerns, there is the financial impact of all this on families, businesses and the country. There is tremendous uncertainty about what life will be like on the other side of COVID. The stresses on marriages and families can be overwhelming. There are arguments about everything from public health and safety versus economic recovery, to the ‘correct’ response to racial injustice. These arguments are being expressed at VOLUME. Conflict is everywhere. People are angry. Some are expressing their anger violently. It’s all disheartening! It steals hope.

What do we do when hope feels this elusive? 

No matter how long all this lasts or how tough it gets, our answer is in the LORD and His promises! 

“So now we must cling tightly to the Hope that LIVES WITHIN US, knowing that God ALWAYS keeps His promises!” (Heb. 10:23) emphasis added 

PROMISE #1 – He is our hope.

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him,” (Lam. 3:25).  He has good plans for us, plans for hope and a future of hope and prosperity (Jer 29;11) 

When I started asking Why are you downcast O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?”, the answer was Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God”(Ps. 42:5).

We can face the challenges and uncertainties with confidence by trusting God “with all our heart.” When we lean on His understanding rather than our own, we have the assurance of His wisdom. “He will direct and make [our] path[s] straight and plain.” (Prov. 3:5-6) 

PROMISE #2 – He is our refuge.

“God is our Refuge and Strength, mighty and impenetrable. A very present and well proved help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1)

When we begin to feel hopeless in the face of all the stresses and uncertainties of 2020, we need to seek the refuge that can be found in God alone. His compassions are new every morning and his faithfulness is unending! (Lam 3:22-23P)

PROMISE #3 – He is our comfort.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the GOD OF ALL COMFORT, who comforts us in ALL OUR TROUBLES so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4) emphasis added

We can find comfort and consolation for the losses and disappointments 2020 has brought in its wake because Jesus is a High priest who KNOWS and UNDERSTANDS our human frailty and needs, from the inside out. Because He has shared in our weaknesses and infirmities, He knows what we are going through. (Heb. 4:15) When we seek comfort in Him, we can learn to be content in all circumstances because in Him, we will know the secret of facing any circumstance, even 2020. (Phil 4:11)

 

 

SEEK JUSTICE: Micah 6:8


Seek Justice Matheus Viana from Pexels

Photo by Matheus Viana


Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24 AMP)

We are facing real issues of injustice in our nation right now. The deaths of Floyd, Arbery and Taylor are deeply painful wounds in a long standing and evil injustice. People are profoundly hurt and justifiably angry. It is an injustice that is wounding our hearts and souls, and our nation.

I truly believe most people are united in the desire to bring this evil to an end. How do we seek justice without going to war against each other? How do we create safe places for people to speak their pain and hurt in a way that fosters true healing and unity? That is unity, NOT uniformity.

In studying the life of Jacob I have found my way through. I have found my voice. I am not saying I have all the answers. I don’t. However, in Jacob’s story I see a way to address the situation. The thing that has stood out to me most in this study, is the relationships, especially the relationship between Jacob and Laban.

Jacob worked for Laban for 20 years, 14 of those as an indentured servant. Throughout their relationship, Laban operated deceptively and opportunistically. At every turn he cheated Jacob. When he did agree to pay Jacob, Laban continually changed the terms of Jacobs pay to benefit himself and keep Jacob indentured. It was one betrayal after another. In that time Laban profited tremendously from Jacobs abilities and favor with God.

It is the hallmark of the abuser to devalue others and see them only as tools to be used. Laban valued Jacob only for what he could get from Jacob and used him. By contrast Jacob valued Laban as a creation of the almighty and dealt with him with integrity. Jacob exercised great integrity and humility. To be VERY clear; humility is NEVER to be understood as passively complying with someone who uses and abuses you! Real humility, the humility that Jacob displayed, was to acknowledge Laban as a human being made in the image of God, whether Laban reflected it or not. Jacob submitted himself to God, then dealt with Laban was an extension of his relationship with God. That takes real strength of character and True integrity.

After 20 years of servitude, Jacob asked to leave with his family. Laban offered Jacob a salary. Laban doesn’t do this from a place of integrity. He does it so he can continue to benefit from Jacob’s skill and favor with God. Because Jacob is following God’s lead, he agrees to Laban’s terms for wages. True to character Laban continues to use and cheat him.

Amazingly, Jacob didn’t use Laban’s breach of contract as a reason, though justified, to go to war with him. Instead of fighting against Laban’s deception and treachery, Jacob stays within the terms of the contract and allows God to turn events to Jacobs benefit. No matter how Laban cheated, God used Laban’s treachery to benefit Jacob. Because he followed God’s lead, Jacob prevailed and God was able to prosper and protect him in a way that would have been impossible otherwise.

Ultimately God Himself deals the blow that ends Laban’s abuses. God tells Jacob he is free to go without Laban’s consent and warns Laban to leave Jacob unmolested. Laban can’t quite do that, so he confronts Jacob about ‘sneaking away’. Jacob responds, “if the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the fear of Isaac, had not been with me you would surely have sent me away now empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and humiliation and the labor of my hands and rebuked you.” (Gen. 31:42) It is Laban who walks away empty-handed. Jacob prevails.

Jacob’s integrity and humility in the face of Laban’s injustice are why he prevails. It is one of the reasons God changed his name to Israel. Israel means contender or one who prevails. Jacob contended with Laban, but it wasn’t all out war. Like a prizefighter, Jacobs made choices and took actions based on godly values and principles. As a result, Jacob prevailed. I want to believe that Laban was changed through this interaction but I honestly don’t know. What I do know is I need to choose whose lead will I follow?

Will I be like Laban valuing people only for what I can get out of them to further my agenda?

OR

Will I choose to be like Jacob and acknowledge the image of God in everyone and treat them with integrity and respect?

Like Jacob we need to follow God’s lead in the present and demonic situation. We do what God tells us to do and move when he calls us to move. We allow humility and integrity to direct our actions. We acknowledge and honor the image of God in every human being. We speak humbly with the strength of the Spirit. We wrestle with God and NEVER let go until He changes our name, until He transforms us into godly contenders who prevail without destroying. Then whatever God tells us to do, we do it! Perhaps then God can bring an end to the humiliation and affliction of racism.