I live in a very hot place, Phoenix Arizona. Yesterday it got up to 115°F. This kind of heat is just plain discouraging. It was all I could do to stop myself from packing the car and driving to the coldest state I could possibly find. But the Lord was kind and gracious to remind me of some important reasons why we live here, and he put my discouragement at ease.
When we’re tired, or discouraged, or sick (or the kids are sick), or things are rough in different areas of life, sometimes we find ourselves thinking: Well, at least I lost a pound this week…. or, well, I made a lovely dinner every night for the last two weeks… or look at all the work I got done today, etc. Now these thoughts are not inherently wrong, but there’s something missing, something we are overlooking.
I have done this often, it used to be that I didn’t really recognize it. Then one day when I was trying to overcome some discouragement I stopped and noticed how I was looking to myself to try to get over a particular hump I was facing: to my accomplishments, to my kids, to my home, to the gifts and talents the Lord has given, or to things I could do for myself: have some chocolate…. It was like the light had switched on and it became very obvious to me that I was trying to encourage myself in me instead of encouraging myself in Christ.
I’m trying out something a little different and thought I would share it here. I know I often quote 2 Cor. 1:3–5 in my writing and that is because I see it as such a vital part of what the Lord has called me to personally. This is a part of Scripture the Spirit presses upon me again and again:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
The Lord is generous and loving to give us the gifts of fine chocolate, good friends and family, smooth robust coffee and a big yummy cookie. Oh and don’t forget ice cream! The thing is though, I’m tired of taking comfort in a piece of cake and a cup of tea. Neither does it bring me real peace or hope when I tell myself I’m becoming a better wife and mother. All these things—good gifts from a loving Heavenly Father—were not meant to meet my deepest need.
I’ve received two emails from an overseas friend in the last couple of weeks and each time she is wise to remind me that life is about growing in the knowledge of our Lord, and that we should consider all else loss compared with the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus. Every time I look to all those other things for comfort, I am looking away from Christ and the knowledge of him. Each time I go for a piece of some food item that I think will ease my anxiety I am groping in the darkness and turning my back on the one true Light.
So, here is what I’m trying out: With the help of the Spirit and to the best of my ability, each time I seek to encourage myself in me, in some form or another, I’m going to grab my Bible, pray for the Spirit to turn my face toward Christ, and go to specific verses that I know speak to me personally about who Jesus is: He is my shepherd, he is my rescuer, he is the fulfillment of the law, he is the second Adam, he pleases the Father in all things, he intercedes for me in the heavenly throne room, he has conquered sin, he knows what it’s like to be tempted, he knows what loneliness feels like, he is my elder brother, he protects me and so on and so forth. Never mind me, just give me Jesus!