rev walter richardson_webjpg.jpgIt’s difficult to write about hope after a string of unthinkable disasters like the tsunami in Japan or the earthquake in Haiti. It’s terribly challenging to try “to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative” during a time when parents are killing their children, or when there’s diminishing trust in government.

Our formerly safe and secure world seems to be experiencing a low point in morale. We know the words are true, that there’s always hope,  but sometimes it’s hard to believe them. All of us suffer through bouts of discouragement.

The dictionary defines discourage as “to deprive of courage, to deter, to dishearten,” all those “D” words — and you can throw in doom, depression, defeat and despair. The mind dwells on them when life has us pinned down.

Even in ministry, where people of faith operate to make things better, there seems to be this looming cloud of discouragement. In many cases around the Christian world, the Church is disheartened, depressed,  despairing, de-motivated,  doleful, disconsolate, droopy, desolate, dismayed, despondent, dispirited, dejected, downcast, downhearted, down in the dumps, dismal, dreary and downbeat. All those “D words.”

I know something about those “D” words, so, when I was leading the charge to build a sanctuary for the Lord in my former pastorate, I constantly and continually read the book of Nehemiah and learned some valuable lessons on building hope in the face of desperation and discouragement.

Nehemiah, on a daily basis, had to deal with his own circle of friends and followers who were suffering from fatigue, frustration, failure and an overdose of fear. He also had to deal with his opposition, whose intent was to distract him from his goals and aspirations.

Nehemiah’s enemies were infested with intimidating words to him, indignant with their insults and injurious with their innuendos. But Nehemiah responded and cried out – prayed — to God, continued the work that he knew needed to be done and concentrated on the larger picture of getting his assignment completed.

So, after reading about the people of God and their determined leader Nehemiah, it is obvious to me that there are good and Godly ways to handle the distractions of discouragement. I encourage everyone to a strict diet of prayer. I encourage everyone to active lives of participation in ministry with the local assembly of believers. I encourage each one to a life of perseverance, working diligently and consistently towards common and agreed-upon goals. I encourage everyone to maintain persistence in obtaining those goals, while re­lying on God, reinforcing any personal weak points and refusing to quit until the job is done.

Phillip Brooks says, “Do not pray for tasks equal to the powers. Pray for power equal to your tasks!”

Elbert Hubbard says, “Allow motion to equal emotion.” 

Orison Marden says, “Obstacles look large or small to you according to whether you are large or small.  The test of your humanity is how much is left of you after you have lost everything outside of you!”

Mark Twain says, “Courage is mastery of fear, not the absence of fear.” The Holy Bible declares in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous; do not fear nor be afraid of people, for the Lord your God is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” The Scriptures also say, in Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

My brothers and sisters, these are discouraging, depressing and deflating times, but God knew in eternity these times would come. These times and the accompanying trials and tests are no surprise to God and He is on the side of the righteous and offers hope, help and healing to those that trust Him. Do not fear, forget, or fall. The Lord is with us! Amen.