by Sarah B.
from Virtuous Daughters, August 2013~Volume 13, Number 5
Discouragement. Do you ever find yourself discouraged? Maybe today you are having a less-than-optimal day, and are discouraged over your own failures. We all have days when we feel more keenly our own sinfulness and inability to fully obey the Lord.
I remember one particular summer morning. I woke up with good intentions to honor the Lord; however, within one hour, these hopes were dashed by several failures in the very areas I had been praying for victory. I had been desiring change and had prayed that the Lord would grant victory—and then, I had failed this quickly! I felt like a complete failure and wondered if, in any of my infant-like haltering steps, I ever would make any progress forward. It seemed like every time I thought I had made one frail step forward, I took a fall backward.
I wearily went to my devotional time that morning, without an enthusiasm for reading the Word. I sat dejectedly at my desk, not even reaching to open my Bible. All joy had fled, as I looked over the wickedness of my life. My thoughts condemningly nagged, “Who are you to say you are even a Christian when you fail like this every day? What kind of example are you, anyway?” A faint cry for forgiveness passed through my lips, as I slowly moved for the Bible. I opened it, flipping to the passage where David had cried out in humble forgiveness for his great sin (Psalm 51). I came across his earnest words and my heart echoed, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions!” I knew my Lord's lovingkindness and mercy was so great (Psalm 69:16)...but I also knew I did not deserve it. For some reason, in my proud discouragement, I did not want to so easily fall back to rest in His forgiveness. However, He is always faithful to forgive, no matter what our sins are. We must chose to accept and embrace this glorious truth! “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
“Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” God, you are full of mercy that I do not deserve. Father, please take away my sin. I desire that Your glory be manifest in my life, and how can it be until this sin is removed from my life?
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Heavenly Father, You alone can save and clean my thoroughly wicked heart. Please wash me and grant me power to press toward the mark of the high calling you have given me (Philippians 3:14)! Don't simply wash me...please scrub me clean!
“Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit.” O Father, I have sinned against you and I feel—and am—so unworthy of your eternal mercies. I feel so void of joy and thanksgiving. Please focus me on Your glorious redeeming Presence and the joy of your salvation!
“O Lord, open Thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth Thy praise.” When I came to this verse, I halted. I did not want to praise the Lord. How could I praise Him in my failure and defeat? While the day before I had gladly rejoiced with David in other Psalms over the Lord's greatness, today I certainly felt more like whining than rejoicing. And how could David, in the midst of his great iniquity, open his unworthy mouth to praise the Lord? However, that is just what he does, rejoicing in his salvation even though he does not deserve it, and probably did not feel its reality. David obediently chose to sing forth God's praise, for praise is comely (Psalm 33:1) and commanded of the upright (Hebrews 13:15). What a beautiful example!
And so, despite my feelings of discouragement, I too chose to open my mouth in praise to my merciful Lord. I thanked Him for what He was doing in my life—and even for this thorn in my flesh (sin). Though not instantaneously, joy returned to my heart, and I again felt the joy of Christ's salvation and forgiveness.
This walk with the Lord is all about obedience. “Rejoice evermore” (I Thessalonians 5:16), He instructs. This is more than a suggestion; it is a command, therefore it does not hinge upon whether we are having a good day, happy feelings, or joyful emotions. We are to praise the Lord no matter what, and take our eyes off of our own failures and discouragement—ever looking up to the One Who died for us and offers to help in our weakness—His hands are ever strong and glorified through our weaknesses! “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Glory be to the Lord Who upholds us!
I believe that when we feel the most discouraged over the slowness of our spiritual progress or the enormity of our sins, it is a result of the Holy Spirit convicting us more, revealing to us the areas that have always been in our life—not always that we're “getting worse.” It's just that as we see more of Christ as we walk with Him, we see how short we fall from His image! (I am so grateful that He does not reveal to me all at once how terribly wicked I truly am; I would feel utterly discouraged!) In truth, I am worse than I know (Romans 3:10), but also more loved by Christ than I will ever understand (Romans 8:35). God has forgiven my sins and holds me in righteousness—He has justified me (Titus 3:7). Take comfort in the glorious truth given in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”—not because of anything we have done, but because Jesus met the punishment of our every sin on the Cross. Yes, we are sinful—and that's why we look to Jesus and rest in His all-sufficient forgiveness and mercy.
We have no reason to be looking at ourselves, for that will only bring discouragement. Instead, when we fail, we should use these weaknesses to turn us to the Lord by confessing our sins at His throne (Psalm 51:1-4). Satan wants to use our failures to cause us to look to ourselves, for he knows that if we do that, no fruit can come out of our lives. We cannot do any good thing (Romans 7:18), and Jesus said, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples” (John 15:6-8).
The Lord delights in taking weak branches and pouring forth His power into them to produce glorious fruit. His desire in saving us was not simply to justify us—but to conform us into the glorious image of His Son. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). One day we will fully bear Christ's likeness—O glorious day! May we press forward, our eyes on the Lord. Do not allow discouragement to have a foothold in your life, because it is not about you. It is about our faithful and powerful Lord.
“I give Thee praise, O God, for a well-spend day. But I am yet unsatisfied, because I do not enjoy enough of Thee. I would have my soul more closely united to Thee by faith and love. I would love thee above all things. Thou, Who has made me, knowest my desires, my expectations. My joys all center in Thee and it is Thou Thyself that I desire; it is Thy favor, Thine acceptance, the communications of Thy grace that I earnestly wish for, more than anything in the world. I rejoice in my relation to Thee, who art my Father, my Lord and my God. I rejoice that Thou has power over me and that I desire to live in subjection to Thee. I thank Thee that Thou has brought me so far. I will beware of despairing of Thy mercy for the time which is to come, and will give Thee the glory of Thy free grace. Amen.”~Susanna Wesley
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