An Encouraging Word: A Shelter from Discouragement
By Dr. Jack R. Hodges, Jr.
A new year has dawned. 2021 is here! When 2020 rolled around last year, none of us could have predicted the bizarre future that we would face in this past year. Indeed, viruses and sicknesses have been around since the dawn of creation. But there has rarely, if ever, in the history of humanity been the kind of cataclysmic or apocalyptic end-of-life threat to humanity that this coronavirus has posed. What we as a nation and a society have experienced has been nothing short of traumatic on so many levels of our being: physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Chronic stress and anxiety are at an all-time high. People of all walks of society are taking anti-depressants and any other substance they can get their hands on to survive the pressure and stress. Suicide rates have skyrocketed and depression has overtaken this nation. We have never seen a time like this! And all of us need an encouraging word.
There aren’t many words of encouragement being offered nowadays! Instead, all that we hear are discouraging words. Doom and gloom abound. The airwaves are filled with hatred and animosity and just like Isaiah predicted (Isaiah 3:5), “People will oppress each other— man against man, neighbor against neighbor. The young will rise up against the old, and the contemptible person will assault the honored one.” The prophet Micah prophesied (Micah 7:6), “For son treats father contemptuously, Daughter rises up against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A person’s enemies are the people of his own household.” Then Micah makes a powerful statement of faith and encouragement (v. 7), “But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord.”
Where will any encouragement come from? Who will offer an encouraging word? It might or might not come from a friend or family! It certainly won’t be offered by our enemies or adversaries! Try as they may, the leaders of this country have failed to offer much hope for peace and/or security. Efforts to unify the divided groups, which are about as far apart ideologically as this country has ever seen, have failed to dispel fear—and have failed to offer us any real hope beyond mere survival. The future looks bleak and there aren’t any real answers beyond the political jargon and empty promises. If I sound like a doomsday prophet, I don’t mean to be—but let’s face it, this world is an evil and cruel place. And we all know that prophetic scripture warns us that it is not getting any better—despite our best efforts to share the gospel of Christ Jesus, who alone offers hope and promise of a bright future.
Frowning faces, drooping shoulders, pleading eyes, argumentative spirits, anger, sadness, fear, and hatred abound. Everyone is longing for some hope. All are looking for some assurance and some encouragement. All are searching for some relief and yearning for answers. All are looking for someone to listen and hear them as they cry out. There seems to be very little compassion and very little care. Do you hear the cries for help? Do you see the wounds and feel the dark, heavy clouds? Would you agree with me that very little care, concern, and compassion is to be found? And why is that? Perhaps part of the answer to that question is that everyone finds themselves in the same boat. Surrounded by the helplessness and hopelessness that is seen today, people, neighborhoods, towns, and cities are in desperate need of something. The world needs an encouraging word!
From where will encouragement come? It will only come from the Lord and from His Word of assurance and hope! Who will speak a word of encouragement? The Lord God, our redeemer, Savior, and friend will speak to His children with uplifting words. He will answer your questions! He will respond to your needs! He will pour out His grace and mercy upon you and He will lift up your hearts and your souls—for you are precious to Him. You are His child and you belong to Him now and forevermore!
You don’t have to look very far to see the heavy and overwhelming burden of discouragement that we all are carrying. As the citizens of this world emerge from a time of trauma, fear, and helplessness, they are heavy laden and full of discouragement. The reasons for such discouragement are countless. They are not new—for humankind has been facing the devastating results of sin and rebellion since the Garden of Eden.
As you and I face discouragement, what do we really need? The Word of God tells us what we need—we need a shelter or a place of refuge.
The Psalmist wrote (61:1-4), “Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah.”
The story is told of a time when the devil once advertised his tools for sale at a public auction. When the prospective buyers assembled, there was one oddly shaped tool which was labeled “Not for sale.” Asked to explain why this was, the devil answered, “I can spare my other tools, but I cannot spare this one. It is the most useful implement that I have. It is called Discouragement, and with it, I can work my way into hearts otherwise inaccessible. When I get this tool into a man’s heart, the way is open to plant anything there I may desire.” The legend embodies sober truth. Discouragement is a dangerous state of mind because it leaves one open to the assault of the enemies of the soul.
Is there an encouraging word for us today as we begin to live for Christ in 2021? You bet there is! It starts with Jesus! It continues each day with Jesus! And it ends in glory with Jesus! As Rick Warren once said, “The starting point in your healing is to get to know your Healer. You need to say, ‘Jesus Christ, I don’t know how You did this, but You took the guilt for every sin in the world—the ones have done to me and the ones done by me. You took that abuse on Yourself. I want to learn to love You, and I want You to come in and heal my heart and my mind and my body.’”
Jesus, as Lord and Savior becomes your shelter and your refuge from all that seeks to break you down, tear you asunder, push you into the dirt, and trample all over you. The Lord is the lifter of your soul. He is the bright and morning star. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end—and all that we hope and trust begins and ends with Him!
You have a shelter in Christ. The Psalmist would proclaim (91:2-7), “My refuge and my fortress. My God, in whom I trust. “For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side And ten thousand at your right hand, But it shall not approach you.” And in verse 10 he spoke with assurance, “No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent.”
Time and time again the Psalmist spoke words of encouragement over and against discouragement and fear. “For You have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah.” (Psalms 61:3-4) “For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me upon a rock.” (Psalms 27:5)
And in Psalms 27:4 he prayed and asked, “One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.”
Are you overwhelmed with discouragement? Are you paralyzed with fear? What do you need? Encouragement! Who do you need? The Lord! You need the One who is your only shelter from the storm of life. You need the Savior who has willingly laid down His life for yours; who shed His blood for you and gave His life so that you could find shelter in Him. He offers you peace amid war and strife. He gives you hope in the face of helplessness and hopelessness. He hands you assurance when your heart is weak and your mind is overwhelmed. He draws you close to Himself, covers you in the shelter of His wings, and leads you to the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.
We have heard and have been instructed over the previous year to “shelter in place.” That’s a term that has become for many of us, a discouraging threat to our freedom and an inhibitor of our self-pursuit of happiness and prosperity. But today, I want you to hear the blessed words of your Savior. He says “I am your refuge and strength. Come shelter in my place.” He invites you, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden—and I will give you rest.” Glory and hallelujah!
Dr. Jack Hodges is the Senior Pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Morganton, NC. He has served as a pastor, a biblical counselor, and an International Mission Board missionary. You can read more good Christian news from Dr. Jack Hodges HERE.