Not one of us knows what effect his life produces, and what he gives to others; that is hidden from us and must remain so, though we are often allowed to see some little fraction of it, so that we may not lose courage. The way in which power works is a mystery.–Albert Schweitzer
It’s easy to get discouraged; I’m fighting discouragement right now as I write this blog. Our family is struggling financially; my wife is having a lot of difficulty finding a job. The bills keep piling up, things keep breaking down, and the cost such of necessities such as gas and food keep getting more expensive. I can’t physically do as much as I used to do, as my body gets older and keeps falling apart; I don’t have the energy and the stamina I used to have. I’m seeking to do God’s calling, yet I can’t seem to figure out exactly what that means. Sometimes, it seems like the struggle is just too much.
The apostle Paul often faced difficulties, and fought discouragement. Yet, he wrote to the church at Corinth:
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NKJV)
God has placed the treasure of the Gospel in the weak, earthen vessels of human beings, so that His power and grace might abound. Paul reminds us that, as followers of Jesus Christ, those things that we cannot overcome, God can overcome. It’s not our strength or ability that overcomes discouragement and circumstances, but the grace of Almighty God poured out on us through the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we may be hard-pressed by our circumstances, but as long as we keep our focus on Jesus Christ, we will not be crushed. We may be perplexed and bewildered, but by focusing on Jesus Christ, we can avoid despair. We may be persecuted for our faith, but God will never forsake His people. We may be beaten down by life’s demands, but God will never allow us to be totally destroyed. Paul’s anguish and seeming defeats are confirmation that he has no actual strength in himself and that, as Christ died, so also Paul knows he is “dead” in terms of his own ability to achieve anything of eternal significance.
It is only by the Holy Spirit working through us that we can overcome the challenges of a sin-cursed world and rise above the despair and discouragement that the world throws at us. Life in this present age can be very discouraging, but as a Christian, my real hope for peace is in the grace of God. God’s grace and love are more than sufficient to keep me above the current discouragement and despair, and to allow me to flourish, until He takes me home to glory. It is God alone that gives to those who have placed their faith in Him the true courage and power necessary to face the difficulties of life. All I can do is keep my faith in Him, trusting Him to overcome the sin and discouragement I face daily.