Tag Archives: Discouragement

The most important “That”

This is my comfort in my affliction,
That Thy word has revived me.—Psalm 119:50 (NASB 1977)

I read the “That” in this verse to mean the solid fact of God’s Word reviving a desponding person—whether downhearted over his own sin, the sin of another or others, or the sinful state of the world in general. The fact that the Word brings comfort in our affliction affirms the fact of the Word’s reviving power; and the reviving effect testifies to the fact of the sinner’s sure salvation, and therefore his rightful share in the mind of Christ. Otherwise the sinner would remain out in the cold, uncomforted.

The shepherd’s own sheep hear his voice. Those belonging to Christ have the blessing of discernment; they are given to know their Shepherd, and they are revived by his voice in times of despondency and doubt. Paul said, “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the Lord.—Psalm 40:1-3

It’s almost—no, it’s completely impossible for me not to despond over Things Going On in the World that I find unjust, plainly wrong, or discouraging for any number of reasons. These texts and numerous others between the same covers, keep me from having to put rags under my arms like Jeremiah, to be extracted from the miry clay.

Be strong and let your heart take courage,
All you who hope in the LORD.”—Psalm 31:24 (NASB)

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Locusts and honey

I’m far too easily discouraged by setbacks; if I needed a defense, I could posit that this could be because everything is such an effort for me in the first place, that the thought of doing it again makes me morbid. But discouragement under pure light is the color of sin: it is sin because I am telling myself that things should be otherwise than what they are, and that sanctification should not always have to come at the cost of having things perfectly, delightfully my own way.

Shortly after nestling delightedly into our newly arranged, unpacked living room, we touched up some paint that had developed little dark spots due to pigment failure — a common casualty, we’ve discovered, with VOC-free paint. We had to buy another gallon to do this, because our small amount of leftover Terrarium green had frozen. We mistakenly bought semi-gloss instead of eggshell, so of course that didn’t work. The semi-gloss is what we need for the bathrooms, so at least it wasn’t a write-off. I returned to Home Depot and bought the eggshell. The color did not quite match — apparently FreshAire has altered the base formula. Attempts at touchup worsened the original problem. We had to repaint the entire wall, and to do so, we had to move the furniture again. It was no big deal on the remodeling potential catastrophe scale, and my far more sanctified husband didn’t bat an eye at the task, which he, after all, performed entirely. But I, who merely had to endure the occurrence of the process, grumbled.

I settled down to watch my husband work, rue the wasted time and energy caused by the defective paint, and read Packer. J. I. Packer is a gentleman, a great theologian, and an encouragement genius. And as I read on, God dealt me one of those moments in which he nurtured me on pablum again, after I gagged a bit on my solid food. Rev. Packer happened to be discussing, in Knowing God, precisely this issue: how indwelling sin causes disruptions in the course of our sanctification, just when we think we have the drill down. He pointed to the promise in Joel 2:25ff,

“I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten…
You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied
And praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you…”

The years that the locust has eaten: this our God will make up to us. There is no wasted effort: nothing is ever wasted; we simply fail to see how it is spent. God always provides for his people, and he has surely dealt wondrously with us–with me. I haven’t been left to die alone and poor in the street yet. My times are in his hands; none is wasted, and he has dealt wondrously with me.

And the sweet thing is, the wall is standing, and the paint looks fine, and it looks like the other walls. And the really sweet thing would be that I would always remember when I look at that wall, that our God is a God of wonders, and that the reason I don’t always see how trivial something is, is because I can’t possibly see how tremendous the real backdrop is.

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