Through the years in my various roles as a minister, I have dealt with people who are depressed or discouraged. Many of us live as if we are looking through the rearview mirror of life…always in the past. Everyday seems to be a gray slush kind of day. Joe Bayly wrote a “Psalm in a Hotel Room” that expresses how so many people live:
I’m alone Lord
A thousand miles from home.
There’s no one here who knows my name except the clerk
And he spelled it wrong
No one to eat dinner with
Laugh at my jokes
Listen to my gripes
Be happy with me about what happened today
And say that’s great.
No one cares.
There’s just this lousy bed
And slush in the street outside
Between the buildings.
I feel sorry for myself
And I’ve plenty of reason to.
Maybe I ought to say
I’m on top of it
Praise the Lord
Things are great
But they’re not.
It’s all gray slush!
(Living Above the Level of Mediocrity by Swindoll page 239-240).
The number one phrase I hear is, “Give me a word of encouragement.” Paul, Luke and companions landed in Pisidian Antioch, where Paul preached his first recorded sermon. It’s interesting to me that out of the mouths of these people Paul comes to are requests: "Give us a word of encouragement. We need it! Paul, stimulate us in our spiritual lives. Give us comfort in a mocking, distress-ridden society that doesn’t care whether we live or die. Tell us some good news!”
Do you feel that way today? Are the props knocked out from under your foundation? Do you feel like throwing in the towel and giving up altogether? Don’t! Instead, let God encourage your heart. Let your Christian friends come alongside to help prop you up until you can stand on your own two feet.
Warning: It may take a long time. Good news: It can happen!
Here are some biblical tips on how to be encouraged:
Biblical Tip No. 1: Stay in the Word of God!
When Paul was speaking to the Christians that day, there were no New Testament writings. The New Testament was in the making. All they had was the Old Testament law and prophets, psalms and wisdom literature. Yet the Old Testament gave glimmers of personal hope. It was God’s written Word then and still is today. What we hear from Paul’s mouth is the building of faith foundation of truth garnished from the Old Testament. Today, we have coupled with the Old Testament the incredible story of God and His church through the New Testament. We have the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that is alive in each of us.
In his book Growing Deep in the Christian Life, author Chuck Swindoll says the Bible is the authority, the final resting place of our cares, worries, grief, tragedies, sorrows and surprises. It is the final answer to our questions, our search.
Today, go back to the Bible, God’s Holy Word, to find the encouragement to face life again. Meditate on the psalms. In other words, take time to read and absorb their worth into your own life. Read or re-read the gospel stories. These stories rekindle and reaffirm our faith in a living, dynamic, caring God who has promised never to leave or forsake us. I would encourage you to dig deep into the theology of God by immersing yourself in books such as Romans and Hebrews. You will be amazed at the uplift God brings to your life. Instead of looking inward, you will begin to look upward into the face of a loving God!
In another book by Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, he asks his readers to imagine that they worked for a company whose president found it necessary to travel out of the country and spent extended times abroad. So, he says to you and the other trusted employees that while he is gone you are to pay close attention to the business of running the company. He says he will send instructions via emails and written correspondence. All the parties agree, and he sets off for a couple of years while continually sending messages…some long and some short. After being gone for two years, he returns unexpectedly, strolling up to his company’s building. He discovers the place is in shambles. The exterior façade is cracking, weeds in the flower beds, broken glass in the windowframes with some of those boarded. The receptionist at the front desk is dozing; loud, obnoxious music is blaring from the back room. (Although, that does make me wonder how she can nod off with music blaring.) Instead of making a profit, the business has suffered financial loss. Within moments of his arrival, he calls for a company meeting of all employees…no exceptions, no excuses and no tardiness. The boss asks, “What happened? Didn’t you get my emails and letters?” You say, “Oh, yes, sure. We got all your correspondence. We have them printed and bound into a book. Some of us have memorized them. In fact, we have Correspondence Study every Sunday. You know, those were really great notes to us…very helpful. Swindoll says, “I think the president would then ask, ‘But what did you do about my instructions?' And no doubt, the employees would respond, ‘Do? Well, nothing. But we read every one!’”
The application is clear: God has sent us His instructions, His heart-felt communications. We call it the Bible. It is all there as He communicated it to those who wrote it down for us. When He returns, He is not going to be so concerned about how much we memorized or how often we met to study. No; He will want to know, “What did you do with My instructions?” He has promised us hope, relief from discouragement. Yes, it is available. We actually can stand strong through discouraging times but only if we apply His directions and instructions.
Our God will not leave us unattached in life. He has sent His Holy Spirit to stand with us and walk with us in those gray slushy days. He will give you perseverance and encouragement as He escorts you through the down days, never leaving your side. As Swindoll observed, “Discouragement may be awful, but it is not terminal.”
Biblical Tip No. 2: Stay Encouraged with Worship.
Something wonderful happens when we begin worshiping God either in private or as a community of believers. Someone wrote, “worship is used as an act of homage or reverence” (W.E. Vine). Another definition is that it is our response to God’s revelation to humankind.
In my discouragement, I honestly can tell God my feelings and my emotional state of being. He does not laugh, ridicule or make fun of me. Rather, He speaks words of comfort and cheer. When I feel Him or hear Him, I have freedom to respond in absolute silence or a loud shout of praise.
Have you experienced moments when you have been touched by God? There is nothing to compare, but you must desire that touch. It is not magic but God who graces your spirit and heart. Worship connects us to God.
Worship magnifies God, lifts our horizons from the burdens, changes our gloom or perspective, and renews or refreshes our spirits.
Take a few moments today if you are discouraged (or not) and worship. Look up to God. He is near. He is standing by you now! As you begin to worship and feel His presence, you will be lifted beyond your fog and slush.
Biblical Tip No. 3: Stay Encouraged with the Good News.
The good news is that even in the midst of the slush, salvation is still ours. It comes by recognizing who Jesus is in life (v. 27). He brings redemption from sin to anyone who asks. It is accomplished through resurrection faith (v. 30).
Albert Palmer wrote, “Salvation is not something that is done for you but something that happens within you. It is not the clearing of a court record, but the transformation of a life attitude.”
Let Christ transform your mind, life, heart and attitude!
God will encourage your life today if you will let Him. He will bring people, circumstances, light and love along your journey. Your job is to recognize Him along the way. Let encouragement be your new word for the year! Shout it out, and pass it along to others. Be encouraged in Christ!