Black clouds of discouragement used to descend on me. Dark thoughts would overtake me. My mind would be consumed with condemning thoughts. You’re a terrible mother. A rotten wife. And a great disappointment to God – thoughts that attacked me in the very places I wanted to excel.
After the discouragement lifted, I’d feel ashamed that I’d let God down by allowing myself to think such thoughts. As I matured in my faith and came to understand more fully God’s love for me, these bouts of discouragement lessened.
One thing is clear to me now that wasn’t then – even heroes get discouraged. Consider Elijah. A man of power and faith if ever there was one. He prayed for drought and for three and half years not a drop of water fell in Israel. Then, he prayed for rain and the heavens responded with a downpour. Talk about a hero!
But . . . Elijah the hero got discouraged, so discouraged he prayed for God to let him die. God’s response? He didn’t tell him to stand on his feet and act like a man. He sent an angel to cook a nourishing meal for the downhearted prophet. Then Elijah had a good sleep. I envision the angel crooning him to sleep after his tummy was full. There, there things are not as bad as they seem. Everything will be clearer to you in the morning.
Centuries after Elijah, James gave us the reason why our hero became so distraught. He was a human being just like us (James 5:17). Too many of us imagine condemnation from God when there isn’t any. You shouldn’t do this. You should’ve done that, we imagine God saying. We don’t see the pity He has for us or the understanding He has for our weaknesses. He knows what it’s like to live as a flesh and blood human being with frailties of body, mind and soul.
I now find freedom in my humanity because I know the Lord isn’t looking for opportunities to chastize me. When I’m under the fire of discouragement, He responds to me with the same gentleness He showed to Elijah. If He is gentle on me then I can be gentle on myself.
I don’t always know the truth in a situation. I can’t understand how my circumstances can be woven together for God’s good purpose. I misunderstand things. And, too often, when events don’t work out as I think they should, I blame myself. Why? Because I’m human and no better than Elijah.
If faith heroes get discouraged and live to experience better days so can I.