Spiritual Development

When Affliction Meets Hope

2016—Challenging—Difficult—Hard

These are just a few adjectives voiced over the past few days regarding 2016.  I don’t disagree with the assessment either.  I, myself closed 2016 discouraged due to a  vast majority of the year spent at my Lord’s side or in His arms while He carried me through some difficult times.  God’s faithfulness and goodness never left me, and for that, I have much to be thankful.

“And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.  This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

Reflecting back on the year, I remember that moment when I debated with God just a few months into the year regarding changing my bible reading plan.

“Why do I have to change?  I’m reading the Bible.”

“Can’t you speak to me through the plan I have chosen?”

Yes, He could, but He had something greater for me.  Reluctantly, I surrendered my plan to His and soon after discovered why.  Day after day, week after week, as challenges and situations arose, God met me in His Word right where He had directed me in the plan He had chosen!!  It was through His word that I was encouraged to endure the afflictions at hand and then allow Him to mold my character into more of His likeness.

As I wrap up the Battling Discouragment series by the fire while the rest of my family hunts in below 20-degree weather, I want to share with you some encouraging words regarding discouragement by Hannah Whital Smith in her book The God of All Comfort.  She begins by sharing how we often hide behind the guise of our personality as a justification for discouragement in our lives.

“But discouragement comes in many subtle forms, and our spiritual enemies attack us in many disguises.  Our own especial make-up or temperament is one of the most common and insidious of our enemies.  Other people, who are made differently, can be cheerful and courageous, we think, but it is right that we should be discouraged when we see the sort of people we are, how foolish, how helpless, how unfit to grapple with any enemies!  And there would indeed be ample cause of discouragement if we were to be called upon to fight our battles ourselves.  We would be rich in thinking we could not do it.  But if the Lord is to fight them for us, it puts an entirely different complexion on the matter, and our want of ability to fight becomes an advantage instead of a disadvantage.  We can only be strong in Him when we are weak in ourselves and our weaknesses, therefore, is in reality our greatest strength (179).”

Smith has learned what Paul related to the Corinthians about his weaknesses in the midst of affliction: “So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).”  It is not to be discouraged over but to rejoice in the reassurance God will give us strength.

Second, Smith pushes against justifying discouragement because of what other people say or think.

“Another very subtle cause for discouragement is to be found in what we called the fear of man.  There seems to exist in this world a company of beings called “they” who lord it over life with an iron hand of control.  What will “they” say?  What will “they” think? are among the most frequent questions that assail the timid soul when it seeks to work for the Lord.  At every turn this omnipotent and ubiquitous “they” stands in our way to discourage us and make us afraid.  This form of discouragement is apt to come under the subtle disguise of a due consideration for the opinion of torahs; but it is especially dangerous, because it exalts this “they” into the place of God, and esteems “their” opinions above His promises.  The only remedy here, as in all other forms of discouragement, is simply the reiteration of the fact that God is with us (182).”

Our hope must be in nothing else but Christ.  He is the one what will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).  Smith closes by addressing the inevitable sin and failure that we experience in this fallen world.

“The proper thing to do after a failure is not to abandon ourselves to utter discouragement, humble as this may appear; but at once to face the evil, and get rid of it, and afresh and immediately to consecrate ourselves again to the Lord. ‘Up, sanctify yourselves,’ is always God’s command.  ‘Lie down and be discouraged’ is always our temptation (183).”

Will you join me by entering 2017 with the hope that does not disappoint?  Scroll down and Join the Conversation to share ways you are entering 2017 with hope.

Persevere my dear friends and find the hope that does not disappoint this year!!

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