Have you ever felt passionate about something, something that you were determined to make a difference in and help conquer the world, then not too long after, you just felt deflated? Discouraged by setbacks? Depressed because you didn’t feel qualified to make a difference?
About a year and a half ago, my wife and I were living in Arizona, praying about different opportunities to serve overseas. We felt God had put this burden on our hearts, but we didn’t know what do with it. We didn’t know where to go, or what we could do – we just felt like He was leading us somewhere (despite the fact that we were perfectly content with our lives at home and everything seemed to be at an all time peak).
All throughout my life, I have been pretty susceptible to depression and occasionally battled suicidal thoughts. I hadn’t really struggled with it much in a few years. Then all of a sudden, during this time – it hit me out of nowhere. It hit me hard. I spiraled into the most serious period of depression I had experienced in years. Not only that, but I had very strong urges to end my life. It was scary. I was ashamed for having these thoughts, and as a result I didn’t want to tell anybody. It definitely didn’t help that I had been coming off my second knee surgery in two years, so wasn’t able to be active (which doesn’t help the serotonin in your body – the hormone that is produced to help stabilize your moods). My lack of mobility also made it much easier to isolate myself. Despite the physical factors, I don’t think it was a coincidence that this hit me AS we were praying about making some significant changes and taking some steps of faith.
If you are passionate about making a difference or feel called to something – what better way to discourage someone then to make themselves feel worthless? Tell them they aren’t good enough? And then make them feel guilty for even HAVING these feelings – thus making them feel even more unqualified to make a difference?
In 1 Peter 5:5-11, I think the apostle Peter gives us some pretty encouraging advice. This whole book is about encouraging those who were suffering (particularly Christians being persecuted) and is calling them towards holiness. I know this letter is geared towards the early church undergoing persecution, but I think it can still apply. Honestly, the only Greek words I know are the names of a couple fraternities, so hopefully I am not taking it out of context.
He first tells us to be submissive to those who are older (v.5a) – I take this as seeking council. Listening to advice and following instruction to those who are older than us, and have already been through the battles we are experiencing now. So much wisdom in this.
If we humble ourselves to seek this council and advice (a.k.a. admit we don’t have all the answers, admit that we DON’T have it altogether, and admit that we DO need God’s help, others help, advice, prayer) – God WILL lift us up in DUE time (v.6). It may not happen right away abracadabra style – but in due time, God will lift us up – because He DOES care for us (v. 7). When I was struggling, I ended up getting counselling (a.k.a. the place you go when something is “wrong with you”. I got news for you – there is something wrong with all of us…. so if you go, don’t feel alone or ashamed).
Peter then goes on and tells us to be self controlled and alert (v. 8). The ability to control our actions as we are experiencing this is huge. But being alert may be even more crucial. We must be alert to what is going on and the source of these feelings. We need to be alert to the fact that we DO need help, alert to the fact that WE ARE NOT ALONE, and alert to the fact that there IS something more going on than just physical factors – we are being attacked spiritually.
Our enemy the devil prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (v. 9). I don’t know about you, but if I am going up against a roaring lion, I would much rather go up against him with some friends and with the almighty God that cares for me, instead of going to battle alone. I haven’t quite checked off lion tamer on my bucket list, so help in these situations is always preferable.
What does he tell us to do? To resist, stand firm in the faith (standing firm in the promises of God – standing firm on His word, knowing that our circumstances are temporary, but His promises are true and eternal). Why should we do this? BECAUSE we know that our brothers throughout the world are going through the same kind of sufferings (v. 9).
How can someone help us, encourage us, pray for us if they don’t know what we are experiencing and struggling with? We MUST be willing to TELL each other in order to help each other.
And the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered for a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast (v.10).
The suffering won’t go away immediately. We are promised that we will suffer. But we are to stand firm, humble ourselves, admit our need for each other, for God – and His grace will come upon us. I think the fact that we suffer forces us to be humble. It helps enforce our desperate need for each other, and our even more desperate need for Him. Even though the suffering absolutely sucks sometimes – I know we grow through it. Any time we are forced to our knees crying out to God for help, that is the absolute best position we could ever be in. Because we are taking the battle out of our hands, and putting it into His hands.
I write this today for a couple reasons:
First – if you are passionate about making a difference, but feel like you aren’t qualified, or have an overwhelming sense of discouragement or depression, it might very well be because the enemy sees you as a threat. He may be trying to make you ineffective before you cause any damage to his turf. Please know you are not alone. It takes humility, but tell others that you trust and can pray for you and encourage you. God will lift you up in due time. Please also be encouraged – God often uses the weak to shame the strong, he uses the foolish to shame the wise – not because of how good we are, but to show how good and strong and powerful HE is.
Secondly – I would ask you to pray for us. Nicole and I have been in Thailand for three months. We have learned A LOT in our first three months here. Ministry wise, we have felt led to pursue some changes in what we are doing in order to be more effective in the long run. We are excited about these potential changes, but know it will probably be a tougher road. God has clearly opened some doors for these changes and we feel very at peace about pursuing them. However, since this pursuit, I have felt completely overwhelmed with discouragement and depression. So I ask that you would pray for us – that we would continue to remain humble, and stand firm.
Let’s open up. Let’s stand firm together. Let’s stop standing solo.
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Is there anything that you have felt called to, but were overwhelmed with discouragement or setbacks? Do you have any stories where God has moved and lifted you up after you humbled yourself, resisted, and stood firm?