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Monday, January 17, 2011

Don't Let Fear Shut You Down

Recently someone confessed to me, concerning life and spiritual work for God, "I don't think I'm a bad employee, I'm just a discouraged employee....I feel this is a wrong attitude, because it's like I don't have faith that God can change things, or that He's working in my life, and this is my testimony to the world about Christ."  Do you ever feel this way?  I can confess right now that those words really struck a chord with me, and I'm taking steps to change that.

As that conversation continued, it became obvious that the root of discouragement is a peculiar kind of fear--fear of a gloomy or unchanged future, fear that trying again will result in another failure or rejection, fear of powerlessness or inadequacy.  Discouragement is even defined as despair or a loss of hope.

Ironically, discouragement seems to be self-perpetuating.  When we harbor those feelings, we begin to stop trying, and when we stop trying, our fears come true.  The deeper we get into discouragement, the harder it becomes to start moving forward again.

Giants in the Land

This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to look over the land. After they went up to the Valley of Eshkol and viewed the land, they discouraged the Israelites from entering the land the Lord had given them. (Numbers 32: 8, 9 NIV 2010)
 The Israelites had just survived the plagues of Egypt, walked across the dry bottom of the Red Sea, drank and ate miraculous provisions in the desert, and watched a mountain quake and smoke while the voice of God boomed down from its summit.  Yet, when they heard that they were going to have to go into battle against giants to win the land God had promised them, they were discouraged, and they gave up.

I had often wondered why this change of heart occurred.  Did they really have short memories?  Well, I honestly doubt that.  I think the difference is that, before they came to Kadesh Barnea, they believed that God was doing the lion's share of the work.  All they had to do was walk, and of course eat and drink.  Now, or so they thought, they were going to have to do more than before.  They were going to have to wage war, and they didn't believe they could overpower such people.  They were short, their armor was mostly non-existent, their fighting skills were probably weaker or more undisciplined than their enemies', and their manpower wasn't great enough to tear down the walls of a fortified city.  What chance did they have against a superior fighting force?

You know, the answer is, not a chance.  It isn't unrealistic to say that they were outnumbered and under-prepared.  However, it is short sighted to think that it was time to give up.  They had something their larger and better-prepared opponents did not--they had God on their side.  Their opponents understood this (Deuteronomy 2: 25), but for a moment at least, they did not.

Larger Than Life

There is a lesson to be had here.  When we, like the Israelites, come upon a task that seems impossible, we cannot measure it in terms of what we have the power to do with our own strength, brains, planning, or charm.  If we do, and we are being realistic about ourselves, we will almost certainly lose hope and feel discouraged.  Let's face it.  Even with our greatest strengths, we are still frail creatures, and most opponents look formidable compared to us.

If we trust only in our own strength, we will fail, but if we let God add His strength to our own, we will succeed.  As Paul wrote, "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8: 31 NIV 2010).  This is how a Christian lives a life that is, what can I say, "larger than life."  God doesn't make us giants, but He is larger than the giants in our path.  He can clear our way and give us victory if we trust Him.

Now, some people might say, "How is Christianity better than anything else, when even the Christians get discouraged?"  To that I say, it is truly a shame, one that requires repentance, when a Christian lives without hope and wallows in discouragement.  I have repented myself, as did the one who brought this up in conversation.  We have seen God work before;  it is not time to lose faith now in His power, even when results are slow in coming.  To say anything else is to call God a liar, and to give up is like deserting just as a battle is being won.

I will invoke the worn parental saying, "Do as I say, not as I do."  The truth of what I teach does not lose its truthfulness when I don't follow it--it just reveals my own hypocrisy.  To all the skeptics out there, I challenge you to test to see if this is true, and if it is, I challenge you to outshine me in this area.

Until next time, this is me reminding you to stay savvy and resist discouragement!


Kamal said...

Rachel -
What an amazing truth wrapped in this blog today. Here are few of my observations.
Yes, I believe the root cause of the discouragement is the fear of failure and rejection. This is when feelings lead to complete stop towards even trying, and as you mentioned, our fears do come true.
As you mentioned a beautiful point under 'Giants in the Land', that is the lack of our desire to leave our comfortable zone and work more and fight more to reach our goal. When battles in our life get harder and harder, we want to quit because we don't want to fight any more.
You have given the answer to fight the giant of fear and it is by recognizing that the one who is within us is greater than the one who is in this world.
We certainly don't want to live our lives like hypocrites by living in fear and professing that we believe in the God who has given us eternal hope.
Thank you for writing straight from your heart.