Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dealing With Discouragement

I never realized how difficult ministry was going to be. People always told me that it would be hard, and I thought I believed them, but I'm starting to realize what they were talking about. There are so many events to keep track of, so many people to call, so many meetings to attend, and on top of that, a social life to keep up on. I find my days quickly filling up, my free time become less free and coming home and being so exhausted that all I can do is collapse in bed. As difficult as this is, I know that God is refining me through it. He is teaching me that I need to learn to say no. The trouble is, I love everything that I am doing right now. So the question isn't, "which things do I WANT to continue filling my time with," but "which things SHOULD I continue to fill my time with." I made the decision last week to quit my second job at Starbucks. This was extremely difficult, because I can't adequately explain how much I love that job and my co-workers there, but getting up at 4:30 AM three days a week and working a full time job, plus not having free time on Saturdays is far too much for my frail 23-year-old body to handle. I am trying to teach myself to rest, and this was not helping. For the past two years, I was working four part time jobs, going to college full time, staying involved at church, and attempting to have a social life. To be frank, I did not know what rest was. 

Even when things seem hard, I have wonderful reminders of why
I do what I do through the wonderful youth I get to work with :)
A few months ago, my pastor was preaching a series on the ten commandments. It seems like the sermon that hit most people (including myself) the hardest was the fifth commandment: "Keep the Sabbath day holy." I had always brushed this one off and said, "I don't have time for a Sabbath." Thanks to the wisdom of my pastor and mentor, I now have a Sabbath and that day is sacred. I don't work, and I make sure to take time to read and meditate on God's word, to write my thoughts in the form of a blog, and to spend some time having fun.

This has been a major step for me. I am starting to understand the importance of rest, but unfortunately this does not remove the difficulty of ministry. It does make it easier, though. I have had a few moments of discouragement and I'm sure that this is just the start, but it is definitely worth it. I have been reading a book called "Your First Two Years In Youth Ministry" by Doug Fields. The chapter I'm on now is all about discouragement in ministry. On this topic, Doug says: 
"Discouragement is a reality in all ministry, not just youth ministry. Where people live, sin exists. Where sin exists, problems abound. Where problems abound, discouragement follows. Count on it! When you say yes to ministry, you also say yes to periods of discouragement" (45).
 To expand on this, discouragement is a reality in all of life. Whether you are in full time ministry, a banker, a teacher, a lawyer, etc., you are going to be discouraged at some point. This is normal. Don't let the fact that you are discouraged discourage you. 

Trust in the Lord and in His Word. In times of discouragement, I often find myself reading James. James faced his share of discouragement. John MacArthur describes James as "(...) the key leader in the Jerusalem church, being called one of the 'pillars' of that church, along with Peter and John. Also known as James the Just because of his devotion to righteousness, he was martyred ca. A.D. 62, according to the first century Jewish historian Josephus." To start with, being the key leader of the Jerusalem church would come along with enough discouragement to make most Christians throw in the towel. Jerusalem was the spiritual center for people of the Jewish faith. The Sanhedrin met there, the Jewish holy scriptures and documents were kept there, and the temple square was the 'Mall Of America' for Jewish people looking to buy sacrificial animals and other Jewish artifacts. Judging from these facts, it's pretty safe to say that James would have faced some serious opposition. He was leading a church that went completely against what Jews believed in the city that housed the 'White House' of the Jewish faith. To get a taste of how James encouraged other Jewish Christians who were going through this, let's look at James 5:7-8, 
"Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand."
 We are to be patient in times of trouble. He relates this to farming. Of all people, farmers have to be very patient people. They also have to have a lot of trust in something, whether it be God, mother nature, or their lucky water spigot. If the rain doesn't come, or too much rain comes, they have to have the trust that the money to feed their families and pay their bills will come from somewhere. The fact we have to face is, no matter how much faith we put in our lucky water spigot, it is going to fail us. Even if we do our rain dance every single day, mother nature is not looking out for us. The only one whom we can actually trust is Jesus Christ. Because He became one of us, He knows exactly what we are going through. If you feel discouraged, know that Jesus has been there too, and He is looking out for you. No matter how hopeless you feel, always remember that there is hope. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Romans 12:12. It says, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" (NIV1984). Be joyful in the knowledge that through Jesus, you have hope. Because of this hope, you can be patient in your affliction or trouble because you know that everything will turn out alright. Be faithful in prayer, knowing that our sovereign God hears each of our prayers and will answer them in His timing and wisdom. If you are feeling discouraged, you are not alone. Rest in the grace and peace of Christ, which we do not deserve, yet He pours out on us richly because of His great love for us. As Paul says in 1 Timothy: 
"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life."
Through Christ alone, we are worthy of God's grace. This is where our hope comes from. This is how we know that no matter how discouraged we feel, Christ has made a way for us and will be with us every step of the way.
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
           John 16:33