Friday, January 16, 2015

Distractions and Discouragement

On Wednesday, I told you about a moment that brought me to the edge of my faith. Yesterday, I recounted an insight that brought me to the precipice of grace. It all sounds so beautiful and blessed and, well, simple. 

It is beautiful. It is blessed. But it's not so simple. Any time you get a moment like this in your life, a real God moment, the powers and principalities of this world will do whatever they can to steal it away. When God starts to rock you, this world wants to make sure you topple over. Or at least, that you cannot come back to rest. 

The two primary ways this happens is through distraction and discouragement.

Distraction is the idea that this world can take your big moment and come along with something of its own that feels "bigger." It introduces a bigger question, a bigger emotion, a bigger event. Distraction is that thing that seeks to define your moment in a way other than how God has already defined it, and we often bite at this. Because it does feel like the bigger thing that happened sometimes. I mean, which is the better story - the God I encounter in the quiet of a private room or the raging winds when I step outside those doors? The distraction has more drama. It usually involves more people (because if this world can get someone else telling your story, then you don't get to any more). It usually has elements that everyone can relate to, things that keep them on the edges of their seats rather than the edges of their hearts. That's what distractions do best. They turn incredible stories into suspense thrillers until you're so lost in what happens next that you have almost, if not entirely, forgotten what happened at all

Discouragement is rather the opposite. Rather than making a bigger thing, it just makes your big thing out to be a small thing. It diminishes what happened until it doesn't feel like anything at all, hardly worth remembering, hardly worth sharing. It, too, raises new questions, new emotions, new events. It questions your resolve, your strength, your prospects, your purposes. Because if your big moment was in actuality such a small thing, does anything you do really matter? Are you even going in the right direction? If you can have such a grand experience and just moments later realize what a small drop in a big bucket it is, can you ever fill the bucket? Perhaps your bucket is too big. Maybe you dream too much. Maybe you're going after more than you could ever get. Maybe...maybe you should just quit right now. Discouragement makes you wonder if anything will ever happen, leading you to forget that something already did.

These are the things we run up against. We all do. Especially in moments like these when we've just had what can only be described as God moments. Less than 24 hours after I finally understand how God desires my brokenness and how that comes to make me powerful in my ministry, I run head-on into distraction and discouragement and suddenly don't know that there is, or ought to be, a ministry at all. At least not for me. How stupid is that?

But that's how this works. That's how this world wants that to work. It wants to make sure that when you pick your foot up to take that next step forward in faith, it doesn't feel like there's anywhere to put it down. It wants to leave you perpetually off-balance so that not only do you not feel like you're going anywhere, but you don't feel like you are anywhere, either. If you're not anywhere, you're not anybody. If you're not anybody, you're nothing. If you're nothing, every insecurity you've ever had about yourself comes rushing back. It's pernicious. It really is.

There's an answer, of course, though not an easy one. The answer is this: don't bite. Don't buy it. Recognize distraction and discouragement for what they are. When distraction says you can't, remember that you already have. When distraction makes you wonder what happens next, let that draw you back to what just happened. When discouragement creeps in and tells you you're on the wrong path, take a look at that path. Look at every brick, every stone that has laid it. Remember what you're standing on. When discouragement tells you you're never going to make it, reflect on how far you've already come. 

Another brief word about discouragement, and I shared this on social media last night: don't be discouraged by the things you were not created to do. This is another one of this world's subtle tricks. As soon as you get a grip on God's master plan for your life, the next step is so often something that's not entirely affirming of that. It's something you have to do, but not necessarily something you like to do or something you find enjoyable. That's okay. It's okay to not love everything you have to do, even to not love everything you have to do to get where you're going. Some steps on the path of faith are a little mucky; it happens. It doesn't mean you don't do them. It doesn't mean you turn and try to find a new path to where you're going. It means you hold on tighter to why you take these steps, that you set your eyes more firmly on the dream. And keep going after it. It's out there. 

Be not discouraged. 

Be not distracted. 

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