April 14, 2016 @ 11:13 AM by: Jennifer Frank
by Pastor Abby Davidson
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~ James 1:2-4
The book of James talks about keeping ourselves from the pollution of this world. I’m not sure what the author had in mind but as I think about what pollutes our world one thing stands out – discouragement. You know the feeling. It can start off as something small and insignificant, perhaps a comment made in passing, but it can grow into something that completely overwhelms you. When dealing with long-term illness or a loss and it hard to see past your present struggle.
It seems there are always people that are willing to feed your discouragement too. In a society driven by competition, numbers and individualism, people’s comments can be hurtful and push you further down when what you really need is a hand up. Unlike our fight or flight response when we’re afraid, discouragement leaves us immobile and without hope. Discouragement can build walls around us, brick by brick, until we can’t see out anymore and are left in windowless room of isolation and despair.
Truth be told, we have many reasons to be discouraged. If you don’t think so then turn on the news. You’ll get there.
Discouragement is unavoidable. So what can we do to overcome it when it happens? How can we keep ourselves from this pollution?
James tells us to consider it pure joy when we face various trials. For these trials will produce perseverance. What does it mean to have “pure joy” during a trial. I know it doesn’t mean putting on a fake smile and pretending to be unaffected by whatever is grieving you. Rather, biblical joy is an orientation of the heart. It’s a peaceful resolve that comes from knowing God is alive and working. It’s knowing that whatever is discouraging you is temporary and will strengthen your perseverance.
Whenever I’m feeling discouraged the words from Psalm 43 come to mind:
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.
The psalmist names praise as the key to fighting discouragement. When we praise God we remember who He is and what He has done. We also look forward to what he will do. This is how life in the Kingdom of God works. When we suffer or feel alone, we turn our hearts to God. In doing so we rid ourselves of discouragement and remember the joy that is ours in Christ.
Our vulnerability to discouragement is another reason why it’s important that believers keep meeting together. We’re not meant to overcome trials on our own. One of the gifts of the Spirit is encouragement and it’s important to know who the encouragers are in your community. I have friends with this gift and the timeliness and power of their words always amazes me. It’s a good reminder that regardless of our gifts, we should always be looking for ways to encourage each other and to speak words of blessing.
While we cannot avoid being discouraged, we can stop it from overwhelming us. By being in community and praising God through our trials, we will find the pure joy that is promised.
So go on, be encouraged and be an encourager!