Don't be discouraged
I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
- Ephesians 3:13
Don’t be discouraged when you see the difficulties that appear in the lives of those you care about, respect, and seek to emulate. Paul saw this tendency in the church in Ephesus and it’s true for us too.
When we personally experience difficulties, many of us find ourselves loved and cared for and supported in ways that we had never imagined possible. We draw on the deep wells of faith and strength that God’s Holy Spirit has deposited in us. We shine.
But the experience is so different when someone we care about is struggling. We hold their hand in the hospital and blink back tears in the parking garage. We marvel at their faith during our phone call; but experience doubt about God’s presence or goodness when we hang up the phone. We pray for them, but do so through a fog of discouragement.
Sometimes the news is so bad, so heartbreaking, so unfair. It sucks the wind out of our lungs. We gasp for air and for life. We feel like we’re drowning in our discouragement.
Paul knows this feeling. He was no stranger to suffering. He had friends suffer. And he saw the effects that suffering had on the communities that he loved.
He didn’t want them to be discouraged because he believed that there was more to their story than their suffering. Their suffering created a stage for them to showcase their faith. And when someone they loved was suffering, it would be a great tragedy if they collapsed into discouragement, closing their eyes to the glorious display of trust happening right in front of them. Their suffering friends told a good story about their suffering God, a God who wouldn’t let the suffering have the last world. The reflected glory shines brightly in the dark.
This doesn’t make the suffering suck any less. But it does change our experience as witnesses to suffering.
Where have you witnessed suffering? How did that impact your experience of faith?