Discouragement

I have had an interesting 5 days. I honestly didn’t realize just how interesting (spiritually speaking) until I sat down to write this post. I actually started it 4 days ago, the morning of Friday 8/6. It’s been sitting here in drafts until now. I pulled it up to work on, and in the working on it I had an epiphany. I hope it stays with me and I can use this experience, this knowledge, in the future.

(Just so you know, my writing style is a little all over the place – I’ll start something with an idea in mind, and the Holy Spirit will take it and turn it on its head. It’s happened so often now that it’s almost comical. There are things He won’t let me write about and things I’ve started and He’s taken in a different direction, things I don’t think I should write and He does. In the case of this post, I started it and it sat there because the episode wasn’t over. I just didn’t know it yet. This is the wildest ride I’ve been on and I have no intentions of getting off!)

I want to take the events of my recent discouragement and share them with you. Maybe you’ll see ahead of time what I just now realized, and maybe it’ll help you.

We all have an enemy of our souls. Whether we are believers or not, he is out there, he is actively working to destroy each and every one of us. So often we gloss over Satan and who he is, how he works. We picture him in the red jumpsuit with the pitchfork and tail, rubbing his hands in glee when we fail. But that’s not at all who he is. He’s the meanest, vilest, evilest being that exists. He’s an opportunist, he’s a liar, and his whole goal is to keep us from Christ. I have seen his handiwork in my own life. For those who are in Christ, defeat and discouragement are his most-used tools. And they don’t always take the forms we would expect…or at least not what I expect.

I heard a speaker say recently that he doesn’t tell us obvious lies…things that just reek of untruth. He takes a seed of truth and twists it, layers it, so that when he whispers it in our ears, we find it easy to believe. Oh he is evil.

Five days ago, I allowed his lies to derail me. I didn’t realize it for what it was. I didn’t realize that it was a seed of truth distorted by his lies. And it brought me down. It left me wondering what to do next. The next day I spoke about it with my spiritual mentor (my mom), and the Holy Spirit used her words to free me from that discouragement. Friday was wonderful. Saturday was wonderful. Then Saturday evening I found myself acting out of destructive attitudes that I thought were gone. Sunday morning I knelt before my Savior and agreed with Him that my actions, my decisions from the previous evening were willful sins. He’s so gentle with us! He is so patient and kind, even (especially) when we mess up!

But I labored under the discouragement, first from Thursday, then from Saturday evening. It lingered, like the smell of smoke in your hair when you’ve been around a campfire. You can go on about your day, do your normal stuff, but every time you turn your head you catch a whiff of that smoke. I still had it clinging to me, all day Sunday, all day yesterday. I attributed it to lack of sleep…I had been up late Thursday night and again Saturday night. I figured that’s what it was.

I slept well last night, and did have more energy this morning, but there was still just a little tiny whiff of that discouragement. Until I started writing this post for real and saw the last few days differently. Here’s the full accounting:

Wednesday I had an opportunity to encourage someone in Christ. It was unexpected, unplanned, and it lifted my heart so beautifully. Thursday I got hit with Satan’s arrow, and it did its work. I was discouraged and despondent on a personal level. He attacked me where I gain my own encouragement. Friday he lost that battle, and Jesus set me free from his net.

Saturday I had another opportunity to encourage someone in Christ, and in the process saw where God was answering my prayers in a very specific way. I also started in earnest on a new project I’m working on. And Saturday night I got tempted by something that Jesus is working with me on, and I failed. It was so discouraging! It was out of the blue, it didn’t have the usual triggers that I associate with it and am on guard against. I was ashamed and discouraged and defeated. There’s a special flavor to the defeat that comes from your own failure. No one can beat yourself up quite like you can. (I feel like I need to let you know that the failure is not related to alcohol…that commitment to Jesus is still holding strong, by His strength, not mine. Coming up on 60 days…He is so good!)

Sunday I sat in church and enjoyed the service on one level. On a whole ‘nother level I sat there questioning and examining my life, my focus, my purpose, my calling. In light of my actions the night before, could I really be of use to Jesus? What was I thinking, starting on this new project? Should I just forget it all? Had I made up this calling? I felt dirty, unworthy, unclean because of my sin, and stupid for thinking I could write for Jesus. Satan attacked me with the things I fear the most: that I will fail Jesus and that He’ll lose patience with me, that this new life isn’t real, that I’m not capable of staying with Him, that I won’t be of use to Him, that I myself will sabotage this relationship. Because Jesus is my biggest hope, my biggest fears are now tied to Him.

Hope hurts sometimes. Hope is scary. Hope is big and huge and you can stand in the middle of it trembling because fear follows it. Hope takes the control out of your hands. Hope means there’s something or someone you’re hoping for, hoping in. It can be terrifying. And because our enemy is Evil, he will take that hope and twist it, distort it, attempt to weave his lies in and through it, all so he can extinguish it. Without hope, why continue trying.

All of the fears I mentioned assume that I am the one responsible for this relationship. That I am the one on whom success or failure rests. But it’s not about me…it’s about Him. And my Jesus is bigger than me and bigger than my enemy. I’m writing that as much to myself as to you. As I wrote about my biggest fears, I could feel the anxiety associated with them. His word says “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” I know that my hope is safe when it is in Jesus. He is the Author and Finisher of my faith. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He is all. He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and the enemy of my soul doesn’t stand a chance against Him. I know that at the end of this age, Satan will be defeated once and for all, and never again will we have to be hit with his lies.

In the meantime, my susceptibility to discouragement is an opportunity for growth. I know Jesus is working in me, leading me where He wants me to go. He didn’t have to bring to light the full events of the last few days. He didn’t have to help me connect the dots. He did that out of His great love for me. Where Satan discourages, Jesus encourages. Jesus lifts my hope, my heart. He reminds me that He’s greater, stronger, bigger and better than anything I’ll ever come in contact with. I wish this particular battle was over with, but in this reality it isn’t yet. I will get hit with it again. I pray that this experience becomes a building block for my future faith. I will fail, I will mess up, others who I count on will also mess up and fail. But my Jesus will never fail. And He will never let me go.

The other takeaway from these last few days…? I’m doing something that’s making the devil mad. Well good.

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