We’ve all had discouragement come our way. People who have good intentions, and some who don’t. When I think of being discouraged, I expect it to come from people who don’t know me, who don’t love me, who are only out to cause me harm. David in the book of Psalms said if only the people who meant him harm were his enemies, then he could endure it. But no, alas, it was his friends! So what happens, or what do we do, when our well-meaning friends bring about such discouragement?
I’ve had this happen again and again. As a support raising pre-field missionary, I often get encouragement, but more often than not, I get discouragement. I will hear the question, “What happens if you don’t raise the support?” or “What if God changes His plans for you and you aren’t supposed to go to Ireland as missionaries?” I will hear phrases like, “Ireland? So you’re going for a long-term vacation?” (Actually, if I had a choice in where we were going as missionaries, I wouldn’t have chosen Ireland. But God chose it for us.) And this is my favorite (a touch of sarcasm, can you tell 🙂 ) “What cause are you getting behind?” To which I respond, “Jesus.” And then these well meaning believers shake their head like I misunderstood them, and repeat their question, “Yes, that’s all good and well. But what CAUSE, like sex trafficking, etc. will you be doing there?” Again, I respond, “Jesus. We are bringing back Jesus to a society who has long forgotten Him.” They look at me with pity, shake their heads, and walk away.
Discouragement. It comes in all shapes and sizes, doesn’t it? What do we do with those who have hurt us, caused a seed of doubt in what we KNOW God wants us to do? What do we do with these friends who don’t seem to get it? We love them. We pray for them. We try to help them understand where we are coming from. We set aside the hurt and pain they have caused us. Sometimes, discouragement comes from a place where people don’t understand what you’re going through, even friends. Sometimes, it will come from friends who are hurting and therefore, want you to hurt with them. You know the phrase, “Hurting people hurt people.” Even Christians aren’t immune to it.
Ah, but what do we do when WE are the ones who discourage? I’ve done it. As a matter of fact, years ago, when my sister told me she and her husband were called to the mission field in Africa, fear set in. As a believer, fear and resentment dictated what I said to her for a year. I did everything in my power to help her “see” she shouldn’t go. I was the voice of discouragement. Until I got on board. Until God opened my eyes and heart to what He had planned for them. If you happen to be the voice of discouragement, ask the people for forgiveness, set aside your own concerns and agenda, and encourage them as much as you can. It won’t be easy. Putting others above ourselves never is.
If you’re on the receiving end of discouragement, vent to a loved one, pray for them. And here is a big one, pray about if there any truth in what they are saying. Sometimes there is. And others, there isn’t. Be open to what God is saying to you.
It’s hard, living this thing we call life, with others. But it is worth the journey!