ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE DISCOURAGED

Are you discouraged? With all that is happening in the world, our county, and our lives, I’ve been thinking about the potential for and reality of discouragement. I find myself among those who are discouraged – probably more than some, but less than others.

One definition of discouragement suggests “your enthusiasm and optimism have been replaced by doubt and negativity.” Having lost confidence or enthusiasm, you may be disheartened. To encourage is to “give support, confidence, or hope to someone – to inspire with courage: to HEARTEN.”

Spending so much time at home the last several days, I have been reading even more than usual. And some of what I have read has been discouraging while some has been heartening.

For example, in a two page article entitled On Living in a Pandemic Age, author Matthew Lee Anderson’s sober observation is both true and somewhat discouraging: “A virus reshapes the whole texture of how we relate to one another, introducing a layer of fear and suspicion that other cataclysmic evils simply cannot do.”

Later in the article Anderson makes another honest assessment: “COVID-19 is a palpable reminder of how deeply insecure our lives really are, of how vain our pretenses to control the world can be. Fear of the coronavirus is not the fear of the Lord.” His next sentence both convicts as well as encourages me: “Yet it a sign of such a fear, a shadow that has fallen across our path that reminds us to look upward as we walk” (emphasis added).

I’ve also been reading a new book by W. David Taylor entitled OPEN AND UNAFRAID: The Psalms as a Guide to Life. In 14 chapters Taylor writes about 14 topics in the book of Psalms. The chapter that most got my attention (perhaps other than the first chapter on Honesty I read online and convinced me to buy the book) is on Sadness. Sadness is a new designation to me for this topic as most writers and teachers call the Psalms that deal with the subject Lament Psalms.

The Lament Psalms are mostly prayers of complaint. Taylor summarizes the complaints “may be about God, about one’s life, or about a presumed enemy” (p. 71). On the next page he notes “One of the most striking things about these lament psalms is that they include interrogation of God.” However, the complaints are “the sign of an active, not a passive, faith” (p. 73). In light of the example of the writers of these psalms, it seems that with our faith, we too in our prayers can question God as well as complain.

Taylor assures us “Faith certainly frees us to embrace the goodness of God in the face of suffering. But it does not mean that happiness will always mark our lives” (p. 74). “When nothing makes sense, the lament psalms give coherence to the incoherence of our world” (p. 75).

(If you are interested in reading some of these prayers, here are some examples of both individual psalms of lament as well as communal psalms of lament: 6, 11, 26, 74, 79, and 83.)

Some who read this post may be somewhat discouraged. That does not mean you are weak in your faith. I hope you are heartened by these quotes from Matthew Lee Anderson, W. David Taylor, and these Lament Psalms. Keep the faith, keep praying, and look up to the Lord as you walk!

Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this post on Facebook or other social media.

photo credit: Kalexanderson <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/45940879@N04/5421517469″>sad</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

4 thoughts on “ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE DISCOURAGED

  1. Bob, Thank you again for a timely message. I think you are saying that it is ok to be discouraged, to acknowledge the way we feel but to stay in prayer. To keep talking to our God about our circumstances. One thing that stands out to me during this time is how Paul found contentment in all circumstances. In all things! What a great faith. I continue to find time to talk to God, probably more now than in recent memory. Stay safe and healthy and please continue to send messages as they encourage the flock!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for taking the time to feed us! I am encouraged by this because I have felt a great deal of discouragement these last couple weeks and with that felt a sense of guilt for being discouraged because I am a believer and should have more faith and not be anxious. I continue to grow closer to God through this storm in prayer and his word. I pray that our faith with be bigger than any fear. Continuing to stay close to Him and praise Him in this storm 🙌🏼

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  3. Bob,

    Thank you for your timely post. I, too, find myself struggling with discouragement in the midst of all of the restrictions and changes in the wake of the Coronavirus. I never before realized how being an active part of the community of believers sustained my faith. Without that I feel bereft, more than a little depressed, and my faith feels flat. Thank your for the reminder that many of the Psalms are Psalms of lament. Going through times of spiritual drought is part of the ebb and flow of life and a walk of faith. I am oddly encouraged by your honesty and challenged to read and journal through these psalms of lament.

    Like

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