The Bible is full of men and women who faced discouragement at a deep level. This isn’t unique to us. As King Solomon, a man of great wisdom and clarity, wrote, “… the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1). Jonah asked God to kill him because he was so despondent. Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. David was either up or deeply down, asking himself why his soul despaired within him. Moses wound up wandering in the wilderness tending sheep for forty years. Even the great apostle Paul felt free to say, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life …” (2 Corinthians 1:8)
No matter what life serves on your plate, and it’s true – there are great things to experience and enjoy as well, but the bitter taste of reality, hardships, emptiness and brokenness will touch your tastebuds at some point. You can’t just tell someone to be happy, move on and enjoy life. Oftentimes, what they are experiencing goes beyond just the emotional – it is a combination of the historical, physiological and more.
Knowing this, God built into His body a way for each of us to be reminded of what we are to do when difficult times come. And He did this by imparting in each of us the compassion, directive and love to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11). This is because the time you no longer feel like drawing near to God is the most important time that you need to draw near. The time you don’t feel like making contact with heaven through prayer is the time you need to make contact with heaven. Which is exactly why you, I and all of us need to be encouraged to remember this reality when we are in the midst of forgetting it.
Life is relational. Life is connection. Yet in our fast-paced schedules, we often feel like the only relational connection we have, outside of our homes, is to be in the scheduled system of work or Sunday School or small groups. And while these places and things are nice, God doesn’t want us to simply limit our interactions to these places. He wants to remind us that we have been put here on purpose for a purpose, the primary one being that of reflecting His glory and His image to those around us. One way this is done is through encouraging one another to keep our eyes, hearts, minds and hope set on Him because the payoff for so doing will be worth it in the end.
When you go through struggles, you need someone to come alongside of you and remind you that there is hope ahead. You need to hear a word to point your thoughts in the direction of God and His goodness again. So do I. And so do we all. That is why we should always be mindful of this great gift to one another as we have been called to encourage one another when they need it the most.