I have a habit of counting my troubles–of seeing the negatives of any situation. But where I go wrong is in failing to realize that a “good day” is not when granted wishes outnumber inconveniences, but when I realize that my reasons to carry on are much more important than all the reasons to give up.
Here are three reasons that we can use to stay encouraged and motivated as we go through struggles:
1. We need each other.
Hebrews 10:23-25 states: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
It’s easy to waver and for our faith to grow weak when we encounter resistance and discouragement. But when our faith in the world, in people, in our own abilities begins to shrink, we can remember that “he is faithful that promised,” and we need to “consider one another.”
When I give in to the temptation to be angry or despairing, I see an impact on those who love me. On the other hand, when I go to church, or reach out to a close friend, I often find the inspiration that I lacked before. Through others, God has sent me kind words that I needed to hear at times that I felt weak. Imperfect though I am, I can similarly show up where I am supposed to be, and maybe become that smile or helping hand that someone else needs to continue on in their own fight.
Romans 12:21 says, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” There are those who are seeking goodness, who are walking in the same trials that we are. Standing together, we are so much stronger. Even when I may not see much purpose in what I am going through, if I remember that God’s commands are good and he is a God of order–if I know that I am showing an example that could be a light for someone else–it reminds me to persevere.
2. We have help and solidarity in God.
Ideally, as I mentioned above, those around us will be working together to create a positive environment. But, as humans, we can’t always rely on our earthly support systems to remain perfect. In this case, Psalm 27:10 speaks the comforting words: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” God is on our side, no matter what. If it is hard to believe that such a powerful being truly cares about and understands the feeling of being cast out by those closest to you–by people you once relied upon–recall the account of the Lord’s betrayal by one of his best friends in Luke 22:59-62 (emphasis added):
And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
What must have Jesus felt in that moment? Loneliness? Sorrow? Disappointment? All in all, Peter was a good servant of his master, but here, he let Jesus down. However, Jesus didn’t give up on his completely-out-of-line companion. He didn’t throw up his hands and leave Peter to deal with the consequences of his shame alone; instead, he turned to the cross and died for Peter’s sins. He loved Peter anyway, just as he loved us. Maybe if Jesus’s vision of sitting at his Father’s right hand, his children’s pardon secured, was a good enough reason to carry on despite mistreatment, we can find a good reason to fulfill our responsibilities, too. Maybe his sacrifice is the only reason we should ever need (Romans 12:1).
And what else did Jesus’s great act give us? Consider the perspective given in 1 Peter 1:3-7 (emphasis added):
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”
We have a hope in heaven that is reserved for us! We are kept by the very power of God! Notice the eternal nature of our inheritance, as opposed to the short timestamp given to our temptations in the language of this passage. Trials may make us feel heavy, on fire, even, but the end will be glorious! The word “begotten” here implies a birth into new life. In this new life, we have the confidence and surety of God’s faithfulness, coupled with the sweet knowledge that he is working through the hard times to create something beautiful.
3. We have everything that we need.
Patience does not come easily for me, or contentment. When problems arise, I find myself thinking, life shouldn’t be this hard, when in fact, hard times are inevitable. The good news is that we have a great source of consolation available to us.
In Lamentations 3:17-26, even in the midst of mourning the judgement of the sins of his nation, Jeremiah reflects (emphasis added):
And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity. And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.
What a comfort! In a world of instant gratification, we have the freedom to quietly and calmly wait. Wealth, happiness, well-being–the loss of these things can be devastating. But there can be productiveness in the removal, if there was something pernicious there that was hurting us or holding us back that we needed to take a break from (overworking ourselves, obsessing about others’ thoughts, etc). It can also be an opportunity to remember the goodness of our Lord, to rely upon him to come through for us in a huge way. He is merciful and true to his word, and to us.
When I feel myself start to envy what others have that I do not, I need to remember the words of Jesus: “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).
I have food, clothing, and a home in heaven. Life is so much simpler than at times I make it out to be.
I’ll close with a thought from Romans 15:5-13 (emphasis added):
Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
I pray that you will be filled with joy, peace, hope, and power as you go about your week!