A lot of the time, I am relatively strong. I persevere. I encourage others. I like to think of myself as Eowyn in Lord of the Rings, or Phoebe in Romans, or Ruth. But every few weeks (at least I hope it’s only that often), I get seriously discouraged. Stay in the bed, can’t stop crying discouraged. It’s not a generic depression requiring treatment, though I imagine it could become that. It’s always tied (and has been my whole life) to a consistent theme – simply that this world is not right. It is not as it should be. Relationships aren’t as they should be. Work isn’t as it should be. Health isn’t as it should be. The Church isn’t as it should be. And most sobering of all, *I* am not as I should be. God does not have to talk me into praying that His kingdom would come. I know good and well that it is only He and His rule that will set everything right in this world. And I long for it. I pray for it. I seek it.
On a good day, I know His kingdom is at hand, and I have hope that He is perfecting His Body to be revealed in all her glory very soon. But not every day is a good day. Some days, the marathon that is the Christian life overwhelms me. Every day, I feel like I’m trudging upstream against a raging current. But on those days, it feels like weights have been attached to my ankles. And then my wrists. And then my back. My ability to trudge upstream against the current slips. I feel myself moving slower. And then I come to a dead stop, the weight of the current threatening to overtake me. In those moments, I cry out, “God, please move!” I just want God to do SOMETHING. I want Him to move in some way that I can document. To do something for me that I can’t mistake that reminds me that He’s there and He has a plan. Pay a bill through unexpected means. Have someone call me with a heart for Christ that I thought was dead to Him. I want reconciliation in unresolved conflicts. Healing where there has been long-term illness. Hearts passionate for Him that once were stone cold.
And He does none of it for me.
He doesn’t resolve the unresolved conflict. He doesn’t bring healing to the debilitating illness. Stone cold hearts remain stone cold. At least it seems that way to me. To me, in that moment, there seems a complete lack of movement on His part. I cry out again—“please God, won’t you MOVE?! I need ENCOURAGEMENT.” Again, silence.
Finally, after hours of this, I stumble over to the Word. I am reading through Romans, and there it is in tonight’s reading.
Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
I have long since learned not to go looking through Scripture for a verse to make me feel better. Instead, I read straight through books of the Bible. I have found that God is much better at finding me in Scripture than I am of finding Him. When God speaks to me in unexpected places in His Word, it increases my faith in ways that a sudden healing from illness or bill paid out of nowhere cannot do. He says it Himself again and again—His Word is His sword. It tenderizes hearts and builds them back up again. It is His self-revelation to us, and it contains EVERYTHING that pertains to life and godliness. And as I read Romans 15, sure enough, those words written in the former days for my instruction gave me endurance and encouragement and HOPE.
The truth is that God IS healing the sick. He is resolving conflicts. He is paying bills through unexpected means. He is turning stone cold hearts into living things passionate for Him. But that’s not where I’ll find my source for enduring. I certainly can get comfort from seeing such things, but I get long-term encouragement and hope from the Scriptures. May I never forsake them or underestimate them in those moments of discouragement.