Satan once put his tools up for sale in a garage sale. All of them were there: hatred, envy, jealousy, deceit, pride—each with an individual price tag. Off to the side was a harmless-looking tool, well worn, but priced very, very high. One of the shoppers asked him what that tool was and why it was so expensive.
"That's discouragement," he said. "It's more useful to me than all the others put together. I can get at someone's heart more deeply with discouragement than with anything else. It's so worn out because I use it on almost everyone. And the best part is they rarely know I'm using it."
The enemy still uses discouragement as a tool, and he uses it on each of us day in and day out.
Because discouragement often comes from pessimism about how things will turn out, one of the best ways to overcome it is to get God's perspective of our future. In order to do that, we have to let go of two myths.
The first myth about the future is that our situation "will always be this way." If your job has always been terrible, you'll eventually embrace the myth that it always will be. Same goes for a marriage, a home, parents, children, or whatever else you struggle with. Discouragement interprets the past and present as an unbreakable pattern, which leads to more discouragement. If we want to see life from God's perspective, we have to reject that myth.
The second myth about the future is that when we make a change for the better, we expect things to start improving almost immediately. Many people find themselves in an overwhelmingly difficult situation and begin praying, going to church, studying the Bible, and overhauling their lifestyle as a result. And when they've stuck with it for a week, a month, or even a year, and nothing seems to be getting any better, they feel like they've gotten a raw deal. Never mind that they've been sowing bad seed into a career or a family situation for twenty years. Most of us feel that if we've made the right changes, we ought to see the right consequences happen pretty soon. And while God mercifully works that way sometimes, He doesn't always. Sometimes the fruit of our obedience takes a long time to grow.
God's perspective on our future is this: "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12). That's a great promise. It encourages us that things will change; whatever we feel stuck in now isn't permanent.
But this promise also reminds us that change requires perseverance. It doesn't usually happen overnight. God honors loving obedience and faith that can stick it out over time. And the reward for enduring is a crown of life.
God promises deep fulfillment and rich joy beyond your wildest dreams. When you come through your trials, you begin to experience it. That's why, if you've ever met a gentle, loving, wise person who radiates the love of Jesus, I can almost guarantee that he or she has suffered deeply. The way God produces that kind of person is through adversity. They don't give up, the life of Christ begins to manifest through them, and they have an inner joy and fulfillment from God that can't be touched by circumstances now and that is greatly magnified in heaven.
Are you looking at your future through the lens of whatever problems you face today? Or do you see it through the certainty of God's promise? Don't give up and don't give in. God says you will receive a reward when the test is finished. You'll get a fulfilling life on this earth in communion with Him, and you'll receive an eternal heavenly crown. And discouragement will be an old, worn-out tool never to be used on you again.
Here to access Chip Ingram's devotional on Crosswalk.com, Quiet Walk.