May I be brutally honest with you? The past few weeks have been busy and somewhat discouraging. On a personal level, we lost Mitch, gained Barnabas and have spent the recent weeks dealing with sickness, training and all that is involved in getting a new dog (especially a young one). Please don't misunderstand. I love Barnabas, and he is making significant progress. It's just been a lot to deal with.
On a professional level, I've been a vendor at three different events in the past three weeks. Knowing that I had the meetings but uncertain how much I would sell (as is the case with every opportunity), I ordered nearly $200 worth of books to make sure I didn't run out. With all three events combined, I sold a grand total of five books. Yep, five! I have another speaking engagement today to a group of school children, so I don't expect to sell much, but maybe I'll be able to earn at least a little bit of my money back.
To top it all off, as I was thumbing through my journal this morning, I came across my 2017 Goals. Well, that was depressing! I haven't met any of them. The goal sheet included items like making enough money to support the family so Jason could stay home and keep the house while I made more time to write (which is something we would both love!). Not even close on that score!!!! There was a goal that I would have improved my health, lowered my blood pressure and stabilized my joints. While there has been some progress in those areas, it's all a bit up and down. Some weeks are good while others are not. Also included in the list was that Mitchell's tumor would be healed and that his strength and stamina would be renewed. I guess, in a sense, that is the case, but that's certainly not what I had in mind when I wrote my goals for the year.
It's discouraging to look back and feel that I've not lived up to my expectations over the past year. It makes me wonder if I'm wasting my time. What am I actually accomplishing with my life? Some days, it seems we're stuck in a rut of just getting by. Never enough money to accomplish the things that need to be done. Never enough time to do the things we would truly enjoy. Yes, sometimes, it feels like we're just going through the motions, but is that really living?
God promised us an abundant life, but for those of us in full-time ministry, some days, that seems out of reach. It feels like it's our lot in life to simply give of ourselves and live in obscurity. But when these feelings of self-pity and discouragement arise, I have to pay attention to the source. Is it really the circumstances that have me down, or is it the echo of Satan's cries in my ear: "It's just not fair"? After all, God never promised an easy road. He never said that faithfulness to Him would result in smooth sailing. In fact, He declared just the opposite: These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Have the past few weeks been rough? Sure. But is God still good? Absolutely. Is He still faithful? No doubt about it. Can I still believe He's working all things (even these frustrating circumstances) for my good and His glory? Yes, even though it's difficult to believe at times.
In situations like these, it's so important to know and understand God's promises. It is His truths that will serve as an anchor during life's roughest storms. It is His faithfulness that will keep us from giving up and giving in. But you cannot cling to what you do not know, so I encourage you to spend some time in the Word of God. Dig out those precious promises. Write them down. Commit them to memory. Hide them in your heart. That way, when the storms come (and trust me, they WILL come), you'll be ready. If the Word of God was Jesus' weapon of choice when dealing with difficult times and people, then I believe it's the best weapon of all.
Troubles arise. Discouragement comes. But they don't have to destroy us. We can fight back through prayer and the promises found in the Bible. And while our immediate circumstances may not change, our attitude and focus surely will. And that makes all the difference!
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. - Isaiah 41:10