How can we give up if we have a promise like this?

As a college student, I had a summer job that was funded by a grant. My assigned tasks did fill a need, but I didn’t have enough work to fill the required hours; almost every day I had to search for something more to do until the clock released me to leave the office. Later in life, I held a job that was often overwhelming simply because there was too much to do in each day. I worked long hours, many times gulping down lunch at my desk.

I much prefer the second kind of job, even though it was more stressful. At the second job, I knew that everything I did counted for something.

Let this promise today inject you with just a few more ounces of energy:

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

How can we give up if we have a promise like this?

Doesn’t it make a difference to know that everything—everything—we do for the Lord is important? We are not just putting in our time, going through the motions of discipleship. Everything we do for Him matters in His Kingdom!

One of Satan’s most effective strategies to derail our discipleship is to convince us that what we are doing has no or very little importance. Or perhaps he whispers other lies to you: “You’re not qualified to do this; someone else could do this better.” and “This is making no difference. What you do has had no effect. All your effort has meant nothing. Might as well give it up.” and “You’re not making any progress at all. Are you sure this is the right road?”

My dear brothers and sisters, stand strong and immovable against the lies! If the Spirit is producing fruit in your life, if He moves you to do anything, no matter how small it might seem (remember the cup of cold water?), do not give up, because nothing you do for the Lord is useless.

The hope held in this verse grows even fuller when we look at its context. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul has just written long paragraphs about the promise of the resurrection of our bodies and the certainty that we will live forever. He ends it by saying, “So don’t give up. Stand strong. Whatever we do for the Lord is very important.” Apparently the effects of what we do here on earth will not be limited to this hour, this day, or the length of our earthly lives. What we do for the Lord has effects that reach into eternity.

This hope is our encouragement to be strong and to stand immovable. There will always be the low valleys of discouragement, and sometimes we even fall into the pit for a time. But we have a hope that keeps us going. Paul writes in another letter that we can be sure we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9).

This is our hope, even when we’re tired and discouraged: nothing we do for our Lord is ever useless. This promise picks us up again and again, to stand, strong and immovable.

 

Psalm Prayer:

I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.
(Psalm 31:7)

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MORE encouragement: Psalm 13; Psalm 31:2-7; Psalm 37:34; Psalm 40:1-3; Psalm 42:5-8; Psalm 77:1-15; Psalm 90:14; Psalm 119:49, 50, 81; Psalm 147:11; Isaiah 41:9, 10, 13; Lamentations 3:19-26; John 11:40; John 16:33; Romans 2:6-7; Romans 12:12; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 7:5-6; Galatians 6:7-10; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; 2 Timothy 2:12; 2 Timothy 3:12-14; Hebrews 10:23, 32-36; Hebrews 12:10b-13; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Revelation 1:9a; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:25-28; Revelation 3:11; Revelation 14:12-13

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

3 antidotes for discouragement

There’s a short little verse in Romans that holds important advice for us when discouragement claws at us.

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
(Romans 12:12)

Rejoice in our confident hope. Read and believe His promises. That’s what we’re doing this year on this site—celebrating the hope we have been given, learning to live “with great expectation” because we trust in God. Even in the pit, remember how good the Lord has been to you and rejoice in your hope.

Hold tightly to that hope, because we know God can be trusted to keep His promises! (see theme verse in the right hand panel)

Be patient in trouble. Oh, this is so difficult for me. I think I must “fix” things…or God must fix things. Why must we have hard times? Why must we suffer for no apparent reason? Why do some people carry such heavy burdens of trouble, like Job? God has the power to change everything with one word—why does He let this trouble and that trouble go on? Why does He not save me from this?

Yet our hope knows that God is in control and He has a purpose for us and for everything He does. He works for our good in every circumstance and His timing is always perfect. He is with us in the midst of every trouble.

Be patient, O my soul.

Keep on praying. Our relationship to Jesus is the lifeline by which we live and breathe and bear fruit.  “Never stop praying,” Paul wrote in his first letter to the persecuted Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Prayer is the antidote to worry and the way to peace (See Philippians 4:6).

Observing this third guideline will make the first two possible—prayer helps us to be patient in trouble and keeps our focus on the God of all hope.

Rejoice in your hope, child of God.
Be patient through all trouble.
Keep on praying.

 

Psalm Prayer:

I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.
(Psalm 31:7)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

After the pit, a new song

Many of the Psalms speak for all of us whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Like us, David trusted in God and believed in God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. Like us also, he sometimes landed in the mud at the bottom of the pit of despair.

And so I keep going back to the Psalms.

Sometimes we feel ourselves sinking into the mire of discouragement, the muck of … what? Fatigue? Low self-esteem? Loneliness? Guilt? Worry? Temptations? Fill in that last word yourself. What is it that drags you down, discourages you, and keeps you from walking on solid ground and singing new songs?

David wrote:

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.

He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the LORD.
(Psalm 40:1-3)

Although the writer puts this in the past tense, not all of the muck and mud and mire is behind him. If you read the entire chapter, you’ll see him crying for help yet again. Rescue me! I’ve lost courage! I can’t find my way out!

It’s as though David began writing to remind himself of what God has done in the past, remembering that God can—and will—pull him out of the pit he’s now in.

We see it again and again in his writings. At times, he even thinks God has forgotten him. Yet he reminds himself that God’s love surrounds him and God has been good to him.

Here’s a lesson for me. God has pulled me out of the mud so many times when I could not free myself, when I could see no escape, when all I could do was cry, “Help! I’m sinking!” I’m guessing He has rescued you from the muck, too. He always hears our cries. His love for us is never forgetful or absent.

And then, He also sets our feet on solid ground, steadies us as we go onward, and gifts us with a new song of praise. Out of our times in the pit come new strengths and new thankfulness. We will sing new songs!

And look at the last line. When we’re in the depths of the pit, it’s hard to see any good in tomorrow. But — as in everything else, God will even use this hard time to bring people to Himself.

You can use my time in the pit, Lord?

These three verses remind us to remember—remember what our Lord has done in our lives. Sitting in the mud at the bottom of the pit, we must remember.

Cry for help and rescue, yes. But do not lose heart, because hope knows that He hears and He rescues—and strengthens and renews our song.

 

Psalm Prayer:

I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.
(Psalm 31:7)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

A promise for the pit of discouragement

How would you feel? Imagine that your dear sister (or wife or friend) was sick, and you were certain that one friend could help her. You send a message, Come quickly.

But he does not come. She dies.

What would you think? Doesn’t he care? How could he ignore us?

I’d be plenty discouraged. I’d be awash in grief at my loss and disappointment in that friend. Feeling betrayed. Pretty low.

That’s what happened to Martha. Her brother Lazarus was sick and Jesus didn’t show up to save him.

“I wish you would have been here. You could have saved him,” says Martha when Jesus finally does come to the grieving house.

“Martha, no one who believes in me will ever die. Do you believe me, Martha?”

“You know I do. I’ve believed in You from the very beginning,” affirmed Martha.

Yet when they walk to the cave where Lazarus has been entombed and Jesus orders them to roll away the stone at the entrance, Martha objects.

“He’s been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

We are just like Martha! We say we believe all the promises of God. We believe in His power. We believe He works for our good. We believe He watches over us and cares for us and protects us. We believe in His goodness and His love. We believe. Yes, we believe.

But when we’re faced with what we call “hard facts of life” and discouragement sets in, we talk and act as though the Lord of the universe just can’t handle the smelly stuff. Like Martha, who blurted out the truth of her unbelief, what we say both to ourselves and others shows our own lack of faith.

Jesus loved Martha. His response to her was, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” (John 11:40)

I don’t think Jesus was scolding Martha. I think He was reminding her, gently, “Martha, there is so much more … if you just believe in me.”

He loves us, too. He reminds us, gently, as we falter in discouragement or tremble in fear of defeat, “If you believe, you will see God’s glory. Believe in me, trust me. I have things for you beyond your imagination, beyond anything you think is possible.”

Yes, those are the promises for those who believe.

I hang onto promises like that.

 

Psalm Prayer:

I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.
(Psalm 31:7)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Standing under poured out love

But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the LORD
because he is good to me.
(Psalm 13:5-6)

This declaration of trust in God sounds like it was written by a committed, devoted, on-fire, unshakeable Christian, right? You know—one of those people who seem to have everything together, everything’s going great, their lives are shining models of what we all think we should be.

Read it again, and notice that first word: But. 

These words come, instead, from a soul in a dark valley. The preceding lines call out a desperate plea that might echo in our own hearts. The writer of this psalm is in a painful time of anguish and struggle. He sees no light at all in the darkness. Everything seems to be going against him, and he even begins to wonder if maybe God is not paying attention. He feels so separated from God that he asks, “Have you forgotten me? Where are you?”

His struggle sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We’re battered by hard times, times of doubt, times of loneliness, times of discouragement. We go through dark, dark valleys, and we wonder if all of God’s promises are true. Can I believe Him? Will He really do what He says? Can I depend on Him?

BUT, no matter what we might feel, God says His unfailing love surrounds His children. He cares about the anguish of our souls. He holds us in His hands, and He will not hand us over to the enemy. He will help us and put our feet on solid ground.

Psalm 147:11 says God delights in “those who put their hope in his unfailing love.

EVEN WHEN it feels as though we are lost and alone in the dark valley, if we can say, “I will trust in Your unfailing love. I know You care about my anguish,” then we will also come to the place where we can say, “I’ll sing to the LORD, because He is good to me.”

Psalm 42 follows the same pattern. Again, there is deep discouragement. But again the writer comes back to what the Lord has promised: “But each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me” (Psalm 42:8).

Even in the dark and the pain and the aloneness, hope stands under that pouring out of love and says, “I will trust in your love, Lord!”

 

Psalm Prayer:

I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
for you have seen my troubles,
and you care about the anguish of my soul.
(Psalm 31:7)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)