One of the main tools that the enemy of our souls uses against us is discouragement. If we fall for the temptation to overly focus on all that is wrong, all that needs to be done, or the ways that we have failed, it’s a great strategy to get us to throw in the towel and give up. It can lead us to not make as much effort, to not continue with hope, and to lose our motivation. When we are discouraged, energy oozes out of us and we can feel overwhelmed and paralyzed, just plodding along and trying to get through.
But Jesus wants to give us hope. Hope is a gift from God. Romans 5:5 says, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” With hope, we know things can be different. We get new life and new energy to do the things that God is calling us to do. It’s important that we ask for the gift of hope.
I had an experience many years ago that has become a parable for me when I get discouraged. Several of us living at the Lord’s Ranch decided to climb Bishop’s Cap, which is part of the mountain range near the Ranch. We drove to the base of the peak and started our hike. It took us about an hour to get to the top. The rocks are loose and there was no clear path so it was tricky and slippery going. When we got to the top, we enjoyed the beautiful panoramic view while eating the picnic lunch that we had packed. It was glorious.
But then came the time to descend. My legs were already achy and tired, and as we started the steep climb down, I could see the truck parked way off in the distance. It seemed so far away. Down and down we went, often sliding precariously as the rocks shifted beneath our feet. I was running out of steam, and it seemed as if the truck never got closer.
At that point, I stopped and looked behind me for the first time since we had started the descent. I was shocked to see how far we had come! We had made significant progress. Seeing how much ground we had already covered gave me a whole new perspective. Suddenly the truck didn’t seem so distant after all, and I felt new energy and motivation. In seemingly no time at all, we reached the truck and headed home.
I see that hike as a parable for the spiritual life. Sometimes we only focus on how far we have to go, how badly we are doing, our repeated sins, the things we bring to confession over and over again, our lack of progress. But sometimes we need to look back and say, “Wow! Look how far we have come!” We are still running the race, still plodding along, still persevering. And if we keep taking those steps each day with the Lord, we are going to arrive at our destination with His help and grace.
The enemy wants us to wallow in discouragement. The Lord Jesus wants to infuse us with hope. Let’s open our hearts to the gift of hope and let the Holy Spirit give us His perspective, always remembering this truth in Philippians 1:6: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”