Discouragement is a regular problem for me.
Not that I have more going on in my life than anyone else, and not that I’m a special magnet for things not working out or going my way. I have a tendency to look at that is wrong, what is lacking, or what isn’t, and major it. I look at the bad things and make a big deal about them.
And they aren’t always big deals or big problems. You might understand if I said that I had lost a parent, and then my job, and then something else. When real tragedies strike, it is easy to look at the bad things, even logical to a certain extent.
But I tend to major on the minors, focus on the little things that go wrong. Like my dog’s leash broke while we were walking last night. Again. One of our bills was double charged leaving us a little short this week. My son keeps crying throughout the night because he is teething. The list goes on and on. One small problem. One small issue, piling higher and higher until it is all that I can see.
I know that I’m not alone in this. Look at your own life. I’m sure when a bill gets missed, or the glass breaks when it hits the floor, someone knocks on the door when you finally have a minute to yourself, everything starts to snowball. A little thing becomes a lot of little things becomes a giant mess of discouragement. And if your life isn’t, look into the eyes of the people you pass by every day. That dead stare, the blankness of their glance; I guarantee that they are dealing with the same kind of discouragement as I am talking about. Little problems compounding into a day of feeling ‘blah’ or ‘I’m just done’.
Everyone has ‘blah’ days. Everyone gets discouraged.
What makes it worse is that when you finally decide that you have had enough, when you make a conscience effort to dig yourself out of the discouragement, you find that you only become more exhausted. You work hard to solve this problem and that one, but the little problems keep on coming. They don’t stop. They don’t magically go away, never to bother you again. A particular problem might, but there will always be something else coming that will leave you discouraged. It might be a big deal, a parent passing, a relationship ending, or financial crisis. It might be a small thing, like someone cancelling plans, someone taking the last donut at work, or someone cutting in line at the grocery store.
Even when we try to dig ourselves out of our discouragement, we find we are trying to get out of a pit of quicksand. The more we try, the more quickly we end up consumed.
That isn’t to say that we should do nothing. Continuing with that analogy, if you stand still in quicksand, it will still eat you up. It will start pulling you down. Even the smallest things going wrong, if not dealt with, will slowly and surely consume you. Doing nothing isn’t an answer. We end up more discouraged. But trying to do it all by ourselves isn’t the answer either. We are fighting a battle we cannot win.
So what do we do when we are feeling ‘blah’? What should we do when consumed by discouragement, and just feeling done?
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said.
So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”
“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” ” – Genesis 16:1-10,13 (emphasis added)
This is slowly becoming one of my favourite passages of Scripture. Not because it is flowery, not because it deep with theological meaning; this is one of my favourite passages because it speaks directly to the issues that I am dealing with over and over again. It’s in these verses that I find the answer to my discouragement.
Hagar, the servant of Sarai (who later becomes Sarah), didn’t ask for all this to happen. She didn’t ask her master if she could sleep with Abram (later Abraham). She didn’t ask if she could bear a child for her masters. Life happened to her. Things outside of her control came her way.
I have never had to deal with being ordered to have sex with a stranger, but I know what it is like when life just happens. I was in the middle of my second year of Bible school, my mom phoned me telling me my grandmother passed away. I didn’t ask for that. It just happened.
I was in the middle of shift at my summer job one year, my girlfriend at the time text me, telling me we were breaking up. I didn’t ask for that. It just happened.
Three weeks before my wife (not the girl that broke up with me over a text) and I were going to get married, a bill arrived that we had no way of paying off, on top of other wedding expenses. I didn’t ask for that. It just happened.
Life just happens, and more often than we would like life happens and it doesn’t turn out the way we want. Hagar didn’t ask to be a surrogate mother. She didn’t ask that her master Sarai would turn on her when Sarai did get what she wanted. Hagar didn’t ask to be kick out of her home, left to wonder the barren desert, alone, while pregnant. Life was happening to her.
Life happens to everyone. Things we don’t want. Things we don’t ask for. Things we have no control over, and have no way of stopping. But they happen.
When Hagar was in the desert, when life had beaten her down, when she was discouraged, when events had gone terribly array, when things seemed like they were not going to get better in any way, God stepped in.
When life beat Hagar down, when life kept happening to her, God stepped in and said, “I see you.” This is where I find the answer to my discouragement. When life was terrible for Hagar, God spoke and said, “I see you.”
So often when I am flailing my arms, trying to get myself out of the quicksand, trying to solve my little problems one at a time, I feel alone. I know my wife is there to help me and support me, to give me strength when things get tough. But when I am feeling discouraged I feel alone, like God is not there.
I feel like God has left the building. God is off taking care of someone else’s problems, someone else’s issues, but not mine. I feel like I am stuck in a pit of quicksand and there is no way out for me. I feel alone. I feel abandon. And that feeling only feeds into my discouragement. I’m not just upset that all these little problems are adding up, now I feel discouragement because I think that I am alone, that God is not there to help me, that God has purposefully abandoned me to my problems.
But….To Hagar, He said, “I see you.”
‘I see you’ means that I am close enough to you to observe where you are at. ‘I see you’ means that there is nothing obscuring my vision or my sight. ‘I see you’ means that I am where you are and I am aware of the situation that you are in.
God says ‘I see you’ to Hagar, and He says it to you and me.
God sees you where you are at. God sees the situation you are in. God sees the circumstances that have got you feeling discouraged. God sees the bills piling up. God sees the cranky kids that are teething and depriving you of sleep. God sees that relationships are ending. God sees that life is not going smoothly. God sees all of that.
He is not far away. He is not on some vacation that He can’t hear you. He hasn’t fallen asleep. He isn’t ignoring you in your troubles. He sees you, right where you are.
For me, the idea that God sees me, right where I am at, in all my little problems; it gives me hope. Because if God can see me, then I’m not alone. If God can see me, as I’m floundering in quicksand, then I’m not without help. If God can see me when I am discouraged, then there must be a way out of my circumstances, as all consuming as they may seem.
Now, I’m not saying that God is telling you or me that He sees us, and that is an answer and instant solution to our problems. Look at Hagar. God tells her that He sees her, and she goes back to Sarai, her master.
Hagar’s problems don’t go away. Her life doesn’t magically get better. Things actually get worse for her, if you keep reading the story. God seeing her does not remove the issues or the things that would have discouraged her, day in and day out.
But she does walk back to her life knowing that God is there with her. She goes back home know that God has not abandoned her. God has not turned His back on her, leaving to suffer and die. Hagar goes back home, to a life still full of problems, with the knowledge that in the midst of everything, God is there, watching over her.
In the midst of kids’ screaming and not sleeping, God is there, giving me strength to stumble through the dark and take care of my son. In the midst of surprise expenses and accidentally overcharges, God is there, giving guidance and wisdom on how to deal with my money.
In the midst of your problems, great or small, God is there. God sees you where you are at, and He is reminding you that you are not alone in your situations. He is right there in the midst of things. And He is offering you strength, wisdom, peace, whatever you need to get through your situation.
Hagar says at the end, “I have seen the One who sees me.” She witnessed the grace of God, the presence of God in her life. She realized that she had not been abandon. And not that she was not abandon, but she realized who was there. The God of all gods saw her. The One that was above all things. The One that saw things that no one else could possible see. The One that knew what problems and issues were pressing down on her, leaving her discouraged, when she was all alone.
This God, The God who see you and me, sees your situation. I’ve talked about some of my issues and they are more physical, tangible problems, but don’t make the mistake and think that God only helps in those areas. Hope is not a tangible thing, but so much more valuable when you are discouraged. Assurance that you are not alone, that there is Someone there beside you in the midst of life; that is not a physical thing, but has the power to change the physical world around you.
That is who this God is. That is what He is offering to you and me, when He says, ‘I see you.’
In the midst of your pit of quicksand, in the midst of your problems, big or small, God will speak to you in your discouragement and says, ‘I see you’.
Whether discouragement is a regular problem for you or not, remember what God has said. That you are not alone. That you have not been abandon in the midst of life and it’s problems. Believe in that truth, hold on to that hope. God will see you through it all.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
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