Recently, I was talking with a close Christian brother. He lives in a different city than I do, yet we see each other fairly often. We met for coffee and to talk about life and work.
My friend is a man of courage and integrity. He is a great father and husband. He is intelligent and a graduate of one of the best universities in this country. He is a man who is doing amazing work in serving and helping many people through the love and message of the Gospel of Christ Jesus.
My friend’s impact is far and wide. I’m not speaking in hyperbole here; he really is a man of incredible integrity and impact on a very large scale.
My friend, though, is very discouraged. There was actually no need to share this with me, as I could see it in his eyes as we interacted in a meeting of peers earlier in the week.
As a result of several stresses converging upon him at the same time, discouragement has set upon him like a lead x-ray vest (yes, I have been injured far too many times if this is the word picture that comes to mind!). This discouragement has caused him to doubt himself, his calling, and some of the great works he has started, which are legitimately helping many people in many ways.
I wrote about discouragement in another article, and this conversation has me thinking about discouragement in much the same way. As is the case with fear, discouragement grips us all from time to time. Though I feel empathy for my friend who is currently stuck in this season of discouragement, this is not what concerned me most about our conversation.
I am most concerned that my friend is now allowing his discouragement to cause him self-doubt. He is questioning his “worthiness” in leadership, and he is contemplating abandoning this work for which he is ideally suited.
As I was sharing with my friend and trying to encourage him to keep pressing forward, the reality hit me afresh.
Discouragement is rough. It can take the most confident of people and turn them on their heads. It can cause the most driven person to cower in insecurity. It can cause clear callings and convictions to become cloudy and murky.
However, just as is the case for fear, discouragement is a lie, and it is not from God. God doesn’t speak to us in the form of discouragement. When we allow discouragement as a basis for making a life decision, allow it to influence our callings, I honestly believe we are wrong. We are building upon a lie. Plain and simple.
God only speaks to us through His written Word and through His Spirit. The “fruit” or character of His Spirit is clearly spelled out in Galatians 5:22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
I tried to help rally my friend through this reality from Scripture, just as I have for myself a thousand times before. God doesn’t speak in words and forms of fear and discouragement. Though my friend was hearing and feeling discouragement, he didn’t need to confuse his discouragement as being from God.
The voice of God is only that of faith, hope and love. The voice of God will always be based in and springing forth from the fruit of the Spirit. Nothing more. Nothing less.
My friend and I prayed together in the corner of that coffee house we were meeting in, embraced hands and went our separate ways.
Now I’m back at my apartment, sitting on my deck, watching this city close down for the night, and thinking about my Asian friend from the coffeehouse. I am praying for him. I am praying that he will have the courage, strength and grace to push through the voices of lies, fear and discouragement that have been plaguing him of late.
I am praying my friend will simply hear the voice of God.
“Faith, hope, love … faith, hope love … faith, hope, love … ”