The past few weeks I have been struggling with extreme discouragement and despair. I have felt that there has been a literal weight on my shoulders, like my body is 90 years old. Kyle and I have gone through seasons of this since our move to Charlottesville and we attribute much of it to spiritual attack and oppression. I don't know what you think about spiritual warfare (or if you even think about it), but I have never experienced it like this before in my life. Lately, there is almost a tangible voice speaking to me: "Give up. Go home. It's not worth it."
THANKFULLY, the Lord is good to use His Word to remind me of truth, specifically in the area of faith.
To be completely open and honest, I think I sometimes have had the idea that in following Jesus here and being obedient to His call, things would be difficult for a season and then it would change. I thought we'd have a difficult climb up the mountain and then we'd get the top and everything would be downhill from there... we'd feel like insiders here, the church would grow like crazy and have no problems, people would love and respect us and let us into their lives. Don't get me wrong, we do feel like we're making inroads, meeting people, the church is growing, people are letting us into their lives and trusting us, but here I am feeling discouraged because it's not getting any easier. Instead, it seems to be getting more difficult as the church grows. Shining a light in a very dark place seems to attract the fiery arrows of the enemy.
Over and over, the Lord has taken me to Hebrews 10-12 and reminded me that this Christian life is one of faith. Faith means we live for something we can't see, for a reward to come. It means we may not see results in our lifetime. It means that we are weak and poor and experience difficulties so that Christ can be strong in us. God does incredible things through men and women of faith (11:33...subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, received their dead raised to life again) but He also allows them to experience extreme tribulation, even death. It seems like the circumstances are kind of an afterthought for the Lord, rather He is concerned with the belief, the faith.
Sometimes I want the false picture of the Christian life that I somehow got in my head in college: comfortable life; being fed by conferences and Christian music; Christian leaders revered for their speaking skills or their dynamic personalities, but not necessarily their faith, sacrifice, or service; staying in my lovely, warm Christian groups. I want the comfort. I want it to be about me and what I want. I want a Hebrews 10-12 that doesn't require faith and where the rewards and results are immediate.
But Hebrews shows me a picture of believers who were said to please God who were willing to endure anything on earth for the sake of Christ and the promises to come. And it reminds me at a time when I really need the reminder, that, in light of those who lived before me, I must throw off this weight of discouragement and despair and this sin of self-reliance and run with marathon endurance toward Jesus, the Finish Line, the Goal, the Reward.