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The Word For Today

GROWING THROUGH DISCOURAGEMENT

Here are four suggestions to help you survive and grow through upheavals such as an unexpected job loss, the death of a loved one, a failed marriage or a serious health issue:

(1) Admit how you feel. That doesn't mean sitting around wallowing in negativity; it means trusting God enough to acknowledge how you really feel. Pretending things are fine when they're not makes it harder to get back up. We all have down times. The Psalmist asked God to help him cope with despondency (Psalms 42-43). And at one point Paul was under so much pressure he 'despaired even of life' (2 Corinthians 1:8 NKJV). (2) Identify the source. Discouragement often comes on the heels of a setback or disappointment. Did something you set your heart on fall apart? Were your hopes unrealistic to start with? Did somebody let you down? Or is your dejection coming from a generalised feeling of burnout?

(3) Talk with a trusted counsellor. Solomon said, '...there is safety in having many advisers' (Proverbs 11:14 NLT). Don't let pride prevent you from opening up to those who will listen empathetically and respond wisely. Talking to the right people can lessen your sense of isolation, and also pave the way for others who are hurting to do the same. (4) Be open before God. He, not fate or circumstances, gets to write the last chapter. Maybe He's trying to teach you something or redirect your energies. David said, 'Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You.' When your hope is in God, He replaces discouragement with confidence so that what you're going through can become a path to spiritual growth.

Soulfood : Ex 22-24, Jn 3:1-21, Ps 89:1-14, Prov 26:17-19

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WHEN PRAYER IS HARD WORK (2)

We all want what successful people have; we're just not willing to pay the price they paid to get it. When you see someone with sculpted abs and a well-toned body, they probably spend time sweating in a gym.

There's a reason Paul talks about 'labouring...in prayers' (Colossians 4:12 NKJV). When you pray, you must be passionate, persistent and positive, expecting good things from God. You've got to put your heart into it and believe God will do what He promised. It's not easy to fight off distractions and focus on Him. Don't expect your fleshly nature to co-operate; it comes to the place of prayer kicking and screaming. And don't expect your intellect to cheer you on; your self-sufficient nature will always choose prayer as a last resort. But God will urge you, and draw you into His presence. 'If you draw near to Me, I will draw near to you.' An unknown poet wrote: 'I got up early one morning, and rushed right into the day. I had so much to accomplish, I didn't have time to pray. Troubles tumbled about me, and heavier came each task; "Why doesn't God help me?" I wondered. He answered, "You didn't ask."...I woke up early this morning, and paused before entering the day. I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.'

Many problems can be resolved, or avoided altogether, when you take time to pray and include God in every part of your day. 'Oh what peace we often forfeit; oh what needless pain we bear; All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer' (Joseph M. Scriven: 1855).

Soulfood : Ex 19-21, Jn 2:12-25, Ps 110, Prov 26:13-16

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WHEN PRAYER IS HARD WORK (1)

Paul writes, 'Epaphras, who is...always labouring fervently for you in prayers.' Sometimes praying for others feels like 'labouring'. Once you understand and accept that, not having 'tingling sensations' when you pray won't discourage you. You can smile and tell yourself, 'This is the way the Bible says it will be sometimes.'

G. Campbell Morgan said, 'A man may offer a prayer, beautiful in diction and perfect in the number of its petitions. But if it gives him gratification afterwards, that prayer cannot have been truly prayed.' What did he mean? Simply this: you'll feel good after you've prayed, but your goal isn't to feel good about the fact that you have prayed, or that you felt particularly good during the process.

Observe: (1) Prayer is a duty. It's like going to work. You do it because it's a commitment, and because of the rewards it brings. (2) Prayer is a discipline. The old-timers used to talk about 'praying through'. Through what? Through wandering thoughts, through fatigue, through fears, and every other form of resistance and distraction. When you enter the 'prayer zone', Satan will fight you at every turn. But when you stand in the name of Jesus, the powers of darkness will retreat and you'll prevail (John 14:13-14). (3) Prayer is a delight. It won't happen every time, but if you're faithful to the place of prayer there'll be times when your whole being will be conscious that God is present, answering your prayer and giving you guidance. And even when the answer isn't completely clear, you'll leave His presence saying, 'Now I have peace about it.'

Soulfood : Heb 11:22, Gen 39:1-23, Gen 45:1-11, Gen 50:15-26

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