Being an encourager doesn’t provide lifetime immunity from ever experiencing feelings of discouragement.
If only that were so!
Although I do make every effort to keep my eyes on the goal and remain upbeat and enthusiastic about my future plans, there’s also a part of my personality that usually needs to consider a wide range of possibilities before proceeding.
I think it could best be described as being realistically optimistic.
The good thing about this attitude is that many potentially damaging, time wasting or expensive mistakes are avoided.
The bad thing is that it can, at times, lead to discouragement, doubt and uncertainty as to the way ahead.
When it stops a major mistake, then I’m forever thankful! When it leaves me in a quagmire of uncertainty after an initial rush of enthusiasm, I’m just plain disheartened.
Strangely enough, this happened most recently in one of the last places on earth that I would ever have expected to be discouraged.
It was during a week of Steve’s vacation when he suggested that we make the most of our time alone (Kylie and Matt were still at school) by going to a movie together. Then, quite unusually for my husband, he asked if we could go to the Christian Bookshop, Koorong, beforehand.
Now this was quite a rare request for Steve to make, because he really isn’t someone who cares all that much for reading. However, on this occasion he had a particular topic in mind and knew that a visit to our local branch of Koorong was something to which I’d have no objection.
I mean, after all, it wasn’t the Hardware store!
Even so, for probably the first time in my life, I have to admit that I was fairly ambivalent about it. After all, my bookshelves were already bulging with unread tomes and for once there wasn’t that rush of excitement at the thought of adding to their pristine ranks.
As soon as we walked into the store that morning, Steve began methodically working his way through every aisle, in search of a book to match his theme of choice.
On the other hand, I wandered aimlessly from shelf to shelf, keeping a mildly interested eye open for anything that might capture my attention.
After ten minutes or so of browsing through the store, a strange and unsettling feeling began to stir within me. At first I didn’t recognise what it was or the reason for its arrival. All I knew was that something didn’t feel quite right in my soul.
Steve’s hunt continued for over an hour, by which time I’d been able to not only pinpoint the elusive emotion but also trace it to the source.
Put quite simply, I was feeling disheartened, discouraged and perhaps, even a little disillusioned.
How unthinkable to be reacting this way in a place that was crammed full with Christian inspiration and insight!
Well, quite frankly, that was the very reason why I was feeling that way. The shop was almost bursting at the seams with a plethora of books covering virtually every topic that a Christian could ever possibly want to know about - and probably quite a few that they didn’t.
Instead of feeling stimulated and excited by such an abundance, the writer within me actually felt overwhelmed. In fact, my immediate response was to think, “With so many books already written, why on earth would anyone want another one?
All the doubts and insecurities about going ahead with the publication of my first book, suddenly came rushing to the surface. As I trudged around Koorong, I began to think of the whole idea as being about as pointless as packing a suitcase of sand to take on a trip to the desert!
Discouragement had crept in and left me, well and truly, disheartened.
To be completely honest, I must admit that my realistically optimistic attitude had been veering a little toward the realistically pessimistic in recent weeks. The Bookshop experience just managed to bring those hidden concerns to the surface and give me a partial reason why.
Much later that day, as we made our way home, I began sharing some of my concerns with Steve. As I came to the end of my woeful tale, I added one last point against the whole self-publishing idea.
“It’s such a lot of money to outlay when there are so many books out there already. You know we probably won’t ever recoup the cost.”
Steve’s response was such a discouragement-breaker that everything about that moment is permanently etched in my mind. Without even looking in my direction, he steered the car around the third roundabout on the last leg of our journey home and quite simply said, “It’s not about that. You know it’s never been about that.”
He was, of course, completely right. My husband usually is.
From the very start, Breath of Fresh Air came into existence so that God would be glorified and His Church would be blessed. It was never about making money or having the number one best selling Christian book on the market. The heart and soul of it was always to take a message of love, grace and encouragement into small churches all around the world, using whatever means the Lord made available.
As part of that vision and plan for my life, God has chosen to use the written word and, in His eyes, all that matters is that I’m a faithful steward with the gift to which I’ve been entrusted.
Whether the message is a blessing to one person or a thousand is not really my responsibility. It just has to be available.
It can be very easy for people in ministry to become discouraged. However, that tends to happen most often when we take our eyes off the reason why we do the things we do.
Not surprisingly, the Apostle Paul summed it up perfectly when he wrote:
Whatever happens in the future for Breath of Fresh Air, the fact is that this ministry has been placed into my hands purely by God’s grace and mercy. Each time a new door of opportunity opens, it’s the Lord who is turning the key. Each time a heart responds to a message I write or speak, it’s the Lord who is whispering to their soul. Each time I see beyond the “realistic” to the “realm of possibility”, it’s the Lord who is opening my eyes.
Remembering who is responsible for unfolding this perfect plan, “we do not lose heart!”
In fact, whenever we remember these things, the “dis” is effectively removed from “discourage”. In its place we are left with the courage and determination to keep pressing on.
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